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Congratulations to Hechen Bao, postdoc associate in the Song Lab, who is a recipient of this prestigious Neuroscience Trainee Professional Development Award!

The Neuroscience Trainee Professional Development Award (TPDA) is a year-long merit-based professional development award program. As a TPDA recipient, Hechen will receive complimentary registration to attend Neuroscience 2019, which will be held October 19–23 in Chicago, and a check to help defray the cost of his travel to the meeting.  He also has been invited to give an oral presentation at the meeting.

The title of his presentation that won him the award is “Dysregulation of hippocampal adult-born neurons disrupts brain-wide functional network.”

Hechen’s presentation abstract

“Mounting evidence suggests that cognitive deficits of several neuropsychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and depression, may arise in part from a small number of dysregulated adult-born neurons in the dentate gyrus (DG). Whether dysregulated adult-born neurons contribute to brain-wide maladaptation in neural circuit function and cognitive deficits remains unknown. Our previous study showed that genetic knockdown of Disrupted-in-schizophrenia 1 (DISC1), a genetic risk factor for major mental disorders, exclusively in DG adult-born neurons is sufficient to cause cognitive deficits in behaving mice. Taking advantage of this established mouse model, we performed resting state functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (rsfMRI) to investigate the brain-wide impact from dysregulated adult-born neurons. Strikingly, we found that approximately 500 DISC1 deficient adult-born neurons (<0.1% of total DG granule neurons) are sufficient to induce a significant decrease of the functional connectivity between DG and insular cortex (IC), two brain regions without direct anatomical connections. Importantly, our in vivo Ca2+ imaging confirmed altered IC activity in mice with deficient newborn neurons both at the baseline and during a spatial memory task. Furthermore, our rabies-based retrograde tracing and functional network analysis suggested that dysregulation of newborn neurons induces an altered DG-IC network intermediated by both local hippocampal and distal thalamic regions. Our results together suggest that modulation of adult-born neurons can potentially impact brain-wide dynamics across several anatomically distinct regions, including those receiving no direct inputs from adult-born neurons. Our findings addressed a long-standing question on how dysregulation of a few hundred adult-born neurons may contribute to the cognitive deficits associated with certain neuropsychiatric conditions.”

A representative image showing what the DISC1 deficient neurons look like compared to the normal condition.

Other contributors to the research

Hechen Bao1,2, Zhiqiang Hu3, Sung-ho Lee2, Ramya Kolagani1, Tzu-Hao Chao2, Yanjia Luo1, Woomi Ban2, Heather Anne Sullivan4, Ian Wickersham4, Yen-Yu Ian Shin2, Juan Song1,#.

1. Dept. Pharmacology, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
2. Dept. Neurology, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
3. Dept. Plant and Microbial Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA.
4. The McGovern Institute of Brain Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA.

Hechen obtained his Ph.D from Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 2018. He has been a core member in Song Lab since 2014 and worked as research assistant till 2017. His study is focused on how neural circuits regulating adult hippocampal neurogenesis. He specializes in in-vivo electrophysiology and optogenetics.

Hechen has had several papers and covers of journals published.  You can see some of them here:

Cell Stem Cell Selects Song Lab Paper and Cover as Best of 2017!

Song Lab Cover Art Chosen by Stem Cell Report for March 2018 Issue