The Zhang Lab employs a multi-disciplinary approach including genome editing, in vivo and ex vivo electrophysiology, pharmacology, and imaging techniques to understand how the brain functions in health and disease states. Our goal is to identify novel molecular targets and neural circuit manipulations capable of alleviating some neurological disorder symptoms.
The Z-lab is located at Tsinghua University. We are currently accepting Postdoctoral Associates, Graduate Students, Research Assistants, and Undergraduate Students!
If you would like to support our research, please contact us at zhangyin[at] mit.edu!
Research (中文PDF )
Mechanisms underlying social behaviors
The recent pandemic has made it abundantly clear that social isolation negatively impacts our daily lives. This includes our mood, sleep patterns, and feeding behavior. Using this as inspiration, the first direction in our laboratory focuses on the neural basis of social behaviors and how they are modulated either positively or negatively by different experiences. We are interested in developing novel behavioral paradigms to better model human experiences. This work will not only examine the role of neuronal ensembles in social behaviors but also the interaction between glia and neurons.
Exploring non-relay functions of the thalamus
The thalamus historically has been known to play a role in sensory processing (i.e., relay functions). Over the past decade, work by us and others have started to show that different thalamic nuclei and their cell types contribute to non-relay processes including cognition and mood regulation. This non-relay idea is supported by evidence from human subjects with localized thalamic lesions that show robust memory deficits and depression symptoms. The second direction in our laboratory focuses on the development of genetic tools to tag/manipulate understudied thalamic cell types. These will allow us to examine the role of the thalamus in non-relay functions both in health as well as animal models of human disease.
Identifying therapeutic strategies for psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders
While we are extremely motivated to pursue basic science questions about brain function, our long-term goal is to build on such foundational studies to identify therapeutic approaches relevant for human disease symptoms. The third direction of our laboratory will start by examining the physiological alterations in specific circuits and cell types observed in disease models, which will allow us to perform high-throughput genetic screens to identify key molecular targets for disease treatment. This work will include both animal models as well as human patient-derived models.