Thalamic modulation of Cognition and Social Behavior via Modulation of E/I Balance in the PFC
Wednesday and Friday, January 16 & 18, 2019
4:00 PM-5:30 AM
Thalamic modulation of Cognition and Social Behavior via Modulation of E/I Balance in the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC)
Wen-Jun Gao, MD, PhD
Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy
Drexel University College of Medicine
Research on thalamocortical relays has been pivotal in framing our understanding of how sensory information flows from the periphery, to the thalamus, and to its final cortical destination. In the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), this characterization has been challenging, partially due to the complexity of information it receives and must represent in a flexible and dynamic manner. We investigated this question employing pharmacogenetic inhibition of the the mediodorsal thalamus (MD) and evaluated the consequences for GABAergic neurotransmission and excitation/inhibition (E/I) balance in mPFC neurons, as well as cognition, social interaction, and anxiety.
We discover a pathway between the MD and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) GABAergic interneurons that regulates a broad range of mPFC-dependent behaviors. Our findings highlight the essential role of thalamocortical activation of mPFC GABAergic interneurons in optimizing mPFC-dependent behavior.
Dr. Gao is a tenured professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the Drexel University College of Medicine where he is studying the synaptic signaling in the prefrontal cortex and its impact on cognition and social behavior. Dr. Gao received his Ph. D. from the Shanghai Brain Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 1997. He had his first postdoctoral training with Dr. Sarah L. Pallas at Georgia State University. From 1999 to 2004, he worked with the late Dr. Patricia S. Goldman-Rakic at Yale University School of Medicine.
In 2005, Dr. Gao joined Drexel University College of Medicine as a tenure-track assistant professor. Since then, Dr. Gao has been leading a research program focuses on prefrontal cortical function, development, and psychiatric disorders associated with schizophrenia, ADHD, and autism. He is the group leader of the Systems and Behavioral Neuroscience Group in the Department of Neurobiology. Dr. Gao’s research has been supported by multiple sources, including multiple NARSAD awards, NIH R21 and R01 grants with over 7 million in the past 13 years at Drexel. He has published 66 articles in peer-reviewed journals, including PNAS and Journal of Neuroscience, etc., and ad hoc reviewer for over 40 journals. He obtained multiple awards in the past several years, including Young Investigator Award in 2009 and Julian Marsh Faculty Award in 2018 from the DUCOM, as well as NARSAD Independent Investigator Award in 2015.
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