The focused neuroscience cluster is supported by two prestigious A*STAR awards: Visiting Investigatorship Program (Visiting Investigator: Prof Thomas C. Südhof; Program Director: Dr Han Weiping) and A*STAR Investigatorship Program (A*I: Dr Fu Yu). These programs are designed to discover novel neuromodulators and neural circuits, and to understand their roles in the regulation of CNS and whole body energy homeostasis.
Our research focuses on understanding the central regulation of energy homeostasis.
One of the biggest challenges of the modern society is the conflict between the eating regulation mechanisms shaped by evolution to survive under food-scarcity and the food abundance in majority of the world brought by technological revolution. Such challenge led to rapid growing epidemic of obesity and many other metabolic diseases.
Genetic factors together with environmental or social influences shape neural circuits and determine behavioural outcomes. Energy homeostasis and metabolism are tightly regulated by brain in mammalians and maladaptation of the underlying neural circuits is crucial for the development of metabolic diseases. Elucidating how the genetically defined neural circuits respond to the change of lifestyle will provide new insights in better treating metabolic diseases. Our research focuses on revealing the neural circuits of energy homeostasis regulation and the mechanisms of the plastic change of these circuits in response to change of lifestyle. We use an array of cutting-edge technologies in systems neuroscience research, including 2-photon microscope with virtual reality system, microendoscope, fiberphotometry, light sheet microscope, functional MRI and molecular/viral tools. We also develop new transgenic mouse lines for investigating specific subgroups of brain cells.
Group Leader: Dr. JUNG Sangyong
Our laboratory focuses on identifying the novel neuromodulators and neurocircuitries associated with neurological disorders in metabolic disease animal models. During pregnancy, the most susceptible period of neurodevelopment in the brain, maternal stresses critically affect the brain development due to sharing of nutrients, metabolites and pathogens via placenta. The various maternal stressors during pregnancy, such as maternal immune activation (MIA) through viral or bacterial infection, metabolic syndromes (obesity and diabetes) and exposure to toxicants (mercury, arsenic and lead etc.), have been well known to date. Among maternal stresses, obesity or diabetes (gestational diabetes mellitus, GDM) and MIA during pregnancy cause adversely acute and long-lasting effects on the brain developments, functions and behaviours of offspring, including depression and autistic behaviours. Recent meta-analysis based on human autism spectrum disorder (ASD) patients showed that GDM significantly increases the incidence of ASD in their progeny compared to those from normal mothers. The prevalence of diabetes has been steadily increasing across the world where 1 in 7 births is exposed to gestational diabetes. In spite of the steep increment of GDM, the study on brain functions and brain development of GDM offspring still remains. To study on the synaptic transmission and plasticity in the dysfunctional neurocircuitries and functional roles of pathophysiological neuromodulators in brain of GDM offspring, we are carrying out in vivo or in vitro electrophysiological analysis, animal behaviour tests and optogenetics/functional magnetic resonance imaging (OfMRI).
The prenatal and postnatal factors affecting brain development
Research approaches to study on neuromodulators and neurocircuitries in the brain
Group Leader: Dr TANG Jiong
Brain communicates actively with peripheral organs to coordinate various biological processes for normal body function. Metabolism is one of the key aspects of activities for all live cells, and disturbance of the balance at any step within metabolic pathway could cause diseases, such as diabetes. However, the molecular components and underlying mechanism for this regulatory network are far from complete, especially in the brain.
Our group is interested in the identification of novel neuromodulators in the brain and peripheral systems. We will study the functions of the modulators in two directions: 1, the regulations under normal physiological conditions, including the changes from diversified energy resources and environment; 2, the disturbance and the adaptation of regulation network under neurological diseases conditions.