15631
김성연Assistant Professor

In our laboratory, we aim to understand how the brain receives sensory information from both within and outside the body, integrates the multiple streams of information, and generates appropriate behavioral responses. We want to find the mechanistic explanations for how it all begins, how it all ends, and everything in-between.

To achieve this ambitious goal, we focus on innate survival behaviors — such as ingestion, thermoregulation, and aggression — as these behaviors and the underlying brain regions are evolutionarily well-conserved and thus amenable for investigation in rodents. These robust behaviors can be triggered or moderated by sensory stimuli (e.g. touch, heat, and pheromones) that can be experimentally controlled in a precise and quantitative manner, permitting relatively facile identification and parametric characterization of the sensory neural pathways. With the solid knowledge of the sensory afferent circuits, we systematically deconstruct the neural circuitry underlying the integration of sensory information and generation of behavioral and physiological responses. We also seek to answer how these mechanisms become dysregulated in metabolic and affective disorders, such as obesity and depression.

Towards these problems, we employ an arsenal of cutting-edge techniques such as optogenetics, chemogenetics, deep-brain calcium imaging, as well as single-cell RNA-seq. In addition, we develop and use new tools that enable the extraction of structural and molecular information from biological tissues, which helps to reveal the anatomical organization of specific neural circuits in exquisite detail.

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