Laboratory of Emotional and Social Behavior
Dr. Hailan Hu is the Professor and Senior Principal Investigator at the ZIINT and School of Medicine at Zhejiang University. She received her Ph.D. degree in neuroscience at University of California at Berkeley, where she was working on repulsive axon guidance. From 2003-2004, she conducted postdoctoral research with Dr. Julius Zhu at University of Virginia, and Dr. Roberto Malinow at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (2004-2008), working on mechanisms regulating AMPA receptor trafficking in emotional behaviors and disease models. Before joining Zhejiang University, Dr. Hu was a principal investigator at the Institute of Neuroscience, Chinese Academy of Sciences (2008-2015). Her laboratory seeks to understand how emotional and social behaviors are encoded and regulated in the brain. .
Research Interests/Ongoing Projects:
1）Neural Representation of Emotional Value
Rewarding and aversive emotional stimuli evoke distinct patterns of behavior. How does the brain represent these different emotional values and generate corresponding behavioral output? To extract the value representation of an emotional stimulus, we simultaneously map the neural ensembles of rewarding and aversive emotional stimuli, and compare their activation patterns in the same mouse brain.
2）Molecular and Circuit Mechanism of Depression
The habenula encodes negative reward and its hyperactivity has been implicated in depression. We collaborated with the John Yates lab and performed a high-throughput quantitative proteomic screen, to search for proteins that show altered expression in the habenula of congenitally depressed rats. Several proteins implicated in neuronal plasticity were identified. Through the functional characterization of these candidate molecules in synapse physiology and depression behaviors, we hope to identify biomarkers of depression and reveal key molecular mechanisms underlying the disease pathology.
3）Neural Circuit Mechanism of Social Hierarchy
Dominance hierarchy is a fundamental organizing mechanism for most social animals. Getting to the top of the hierarchy is not simply determined by brute strength. Personality traits including courage, confidence, persistency and motivational drive, regulated by high cortical functions, also play an important role. In recent work, we explored the circuitry for dominance hierarchy by synaptic perturbation in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), a brain region heavily implicated in social cognition. We are recording mPFC neuron activity during social confrontations in real time, and are using optogenetic tools to delineate the mPFC downstream circuitry involved in dominance hierarchy.
Neural representation of emotional value
Rewarding and aversive emotional stimuli evoke distinct patterns of behavior. How does the brain represent these different emotional values and generate corresponding behavioral output? In order to extract the value representation of an emotional stimulus, we simultaneously map the neural ensembles of rewarding and aversive emotional stimuli, and compare their activation patterns in the same mouse brain (1).