Research Overview

Explore The Brain

Systems Neuroscience to
elucidate neural mechanisms
underlying compulsive seeking
behavior toward drugs of abuse


 Drug addiction/substance use disorders are characterized by the vigorous pursuit towards drugs, despite the fact that its abuse can lead to life-threatening series of adverse consequence. Surprisingly, however, conversion mechanisms from recreational consumption of drugs to the compulsive seeking remain elusive. We are employing state-of-the-art techniques such as in vivo and in vitro neurophysiology, and optogenetics-driven circuit manipulation to observe and probe how drug seeking behavior arises from drug addiction, using animal models particularly through contingent administration paradigms. We are also keen to neuromodulation for accumbal and inhibitory neural circuits in midbrain, which are hypothesized responsible for drug craving traits.

Cellular approaches to define neuromodulation for emotional memories


 Emotional memories from aversive or appetitive experience could be mediated and controlled by drastic alteration in synaptic transmission and neuronal connectivity. Recent studies have provided ample insights into the synaptic plasticity underlying acquisition, expression and extinction of fear memory, which results in not only the observable behavioral changes, but also autonomic responses. For better understandings for emotional memory, we elucidate specific neuromodulation imposed on each stage of aversive memory. Moreover, we are to define cellular identity for conceivable interaction between aversive and appetitive memories within the amygdala and its connected regions. 


Molecular and cellular underpinnings for neuropsychiatric disorders

 With the recent advancement in genomics, proteomics and epigenetics, psychiatric disorders including PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) can be assessed with unprecedented detail. However, current mainstream investigation is still limited to phenomenal features. We are attempting to parse cellular and physiological changes in neural circuits leading to maladaptive behaviors of neuropsychiatric disorders and thereby to provide novel insights and potential treatments. In particular, we focus on bidirectional connection between amygdala and hippocampus, dysfunction of which can elicit PTSD-like behaviors.