Yi Zuo

Yi Zuo Professor of MCD Biology
B.S., Tsinghua University
Ph.D., Northwestern University
Postdoctorate, New York University, Univeristy of Texas at Austin

Decipher the dynamic neural circuit in the living brain  

The ability to learn new skills and to adapt to an ever-changing environment is vital for the animal.  To understand the neural circuit basis of such abilities, we combine live imaging, molecular genetics, opto- and chemo-genetics, and mouse behavioral analysis to study synapse plasticity under both physiological and pathological conditions.

Synaptic mechanisms of learning and memory.

Memory leaves physical traces in the brain. It is generally believed that a memory trace is stored by a specific population of neurons together with their synaptic connections. Using motor learning as a paradigm, we ask how memories of new motor skills are allocated at the level of synapses and how neurons integrate synaptic inputs to generate behavioral outputs. Furthermore, we try to understand how the synaptic machinery deteriorates with aging and in neurological disorders. 

Neuronal circuits for cognitive flexibility.

Cognitive flexibility refers to the brain’s ability to extract rules from experience and to apply them adaptively in a complex, changing environment. Loss of cognitive flexibility is frequently encountered in stress-associated psychiatric disorders. We focus on the frontal cortex, a region critically involved in working memory and decision-making, to understand its organizational principles and functional roles in cognitive flexibility.

Example papers:

  • Xu T, Yu X, Perlik A, Tobin W, Zweig J, Tennant K, Jones T and Zuo Y (2009) Rapid formation and selective stabilization of synapses for enduring motor memories. Nature 462:915-919, PMCID: PMC2844762
  • Fu M, Yu X, Lu J and Zuo Y (2012) Learning induces clustered dendritic spine formation in vivo. Nature 483:82-95, PMCID: PMC3292711
  • Yu X, Wang G, Gilmore A, Yee AX, Li X, Xu T, Smith SJ, Chen L and Zuo Y (2013) Accelerated experience-dependent pruning of cortical synapses in ephrin-A2 KO mice. Neuron 80:64-71, PMCID: PMC3792401
  • Chen C-C, Lu J, Yang R, Ding JB and Zuo Y (2018) Selective activation of parvalbumin interneurons prevents stress-induced synapse loss and perceptual defects. Mol. Psychiatry 23(7):1614-1625, PMCID: PMC5794672
  • Hodges JL, Yu X, Gilmore A, Li X, Perna JF, Tjia M, Chen C-C, Bennett H, Lu J and Zuo Y (2017) Astrocytic contributions to synaptic and learning abnormalities in a mouse model of Fragile X Syndrome. Biol. Psychiatry 82(2):139-149, PMCID: PMC5348290

Please check out my lab webpage.