Decipher the language of astrocytes -- the "star" cells of the brain
Our emotions and thoughts are generated and processed by a network of different cell types in the brain, including both neurons and glial cells. As the most abundant glial cells, the "star cells" - astrocytes - were discovered more than a century ago but were only considered to have passive supporting functions to neurons. However, many recent studies have challenged this view and suggested that astrocytes are an integral part of the central nervous system. Our lab focuses on understanding astrocyte fundamental principles and their contributions to neurological and psychiatric disorders.
There are two major questions that we are interested in:
(1) What are the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which astrocytes contribute to brain function and dysfunction?
(2) How can we target astrocytes to improve brain function and treat brain disorders?
To tackle these questions, we will take a systematic approach with innovative genetic tools, in vivo imaging, electrophysiological recordings, next generation sequencing, cell-type specific proteomics and computational modeling. Our goals are to expand the understanding of astrocyte physiology as well as offer mechanistic insights into new biomarkers for early diagnosis and potential therapeutic treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders.
The plasticity of the neuronal connections is an essential feature of the brain. We aim to understand whether and how astrocytes orchestrate the changes of synaptic plasticity throughout life
Learning and Memory
One central question in neuroscience is to understand the principle of learning and memory. We use a motor skill learning paradigm to dissect the roles of astrocytes in the formation and maintenance of long-lasting memories.
Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders
Astrocyte abnormalities are implicated in numerous neurological and psychiatric disorders. Our goals are to explore the contribution of astrocytes in disease, especially the ones related to social and cognitive deficits and target astrocytes to ameliorate the symptoms.