Unit on Neural Circuits and Adaptive Behaviors
Dr. Kuan Hong Wang received his B.A. from Harvard University and his Ph.D. from the University of California at San Francisco, where he studied the molecular regulators of sensory axon growth and branching during nervous system development with Marc Tessier-Lavigne. Dr. Wang obtained postdoctoral training with Susumu Tonegawa at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he examined the ways in which cortical neurons react to an animal's experience by directly visualizing the molecular activity of a given set of neurons over several days in the live animal. Dr. Wang joined NIMH as an investigator in 2006. His laboratory employs mouse genetics, in vivo imaging, electrophysiological and behavioral techniques to investigate experience-dependent changes in brain neural circuits underlying normal adaptive behaviors as well as psychiatric disorders.
The main focus of Dr. Wang's laboratory is to use an integrated systems approach to understand the logic of experience-dependent cortical information processing at the molecular, cellular, circuitry and behavioral levels. A variety of cutting-edge technologies in molecular and cellular biology, mouse genetics, in vivo multi-photon imaging, and electrophysiology as well as sophisticated behavioral analyses will be combined to investigate the ability of the brain to change in response to behavioral experiences during normal adaptive cognition such as perceptual discrimination and social recognition and in the context of maladaptive psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, depression and drug addiction. Dr. Wang has genetically engineered a mouse line that enables direct visualization and tracking of experience-dependent and stimulus-specific molecular changes in the brain of live animals with single-cell resolution. With the aid of this line of mice, as well as new lines being developed that will provide more exquisite spatial and temporal controls of optical labeling and allow for functional manipulations of selected neurons, Dr. Wang's laboratory will identify and characterize the molecular and cellular changes in the primary sensory and higher association cortices that are regulated by the internal drives, environmental exposures, and social interactions of an animal. Furthermore, Dr. Wang's group will examine the neurophyisological correlates of these molecular and cellular changes and investigate the mechanisms by which these changes are integrated in the cortical circuits to control behavioral decisions during perceptual discrimination and social recognition. Dr. Wang's group will also combine the optical-genetic systems that they are developing with mouse models of mental disorders to monitor the development of brain dysfunctions in real time, and test the effects of genetic risk factors as well as pharmacological and behavioral treatments.