Synapses are the connections between neurons in a vast communicating network. The synapses have been proposed to be sites of information processing and memory storage, and their functional deficits the key to cognitive disorders and diseases. Our research focuses on the molecular mechanisms underlying synapse development and functions in learning and memory. Not only is this area interesting and poorly understood, but it is critical to our understanding of cognitive disorders and mental disabilities. Our studies may ultimately lead to the discovery of treatments that improve the life quality of patients suffering from congenital syndromes (e.g. autism spectrum disorder (ASD), fragile X syndrome (FXS), schizophrenia (SCZ)) or cognitive problems associated with traumatic experience or aging.
We aim to identify the key molecules and their signaling cascades involved in in synapse formation and functions in learning and memory and their deficits in various disease conditions. We are particularly interested in the activity-dependent signaling pathways underlying synaptic structural changes. We study different synapse types in the brain, how these synapses form, function, and been regulated. We take advantage of genetic and molecular approaches which enable accurately target the specific types of neurons/synapses located at specific brain regions (spatial control) at specific development window (temporal control) to ask that how the synapses are developmentally regulated and how this regulatory mechanism fail in the disordered brains.