Dr. Kuan Hong Wang began his research training as an undergraduate at Harvard College, receiving B.A., Summa Cum Laude, with highest honors in Biochemical Sciences. He then went to the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) for his PhD research with Dr. Marc Tessier-Lavigne, and identified novel molecular regulators of axon growth and branching during neural development. During his postdoctoral work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with Dr. Susumu Tonegawa, he developed new genetic tools and optical methods for tracking activity-regulated gene expression changes in the living brain and uncovered novel mechanisms of experience-dependent visual processing. As a principal investigator at the intramural research program of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), he established a new line of research on the neural circuit and molecular mechanisms underlying goal-directed skills. His laboratory identified novel roles of frontal cortical neuronal ensembles in the learning and control of goal-directed skills, established new paradigms for top-down corticospinal control of sensorimotor functions and pain, and uncovered unique age-dependent plasticity of dopaminergic inputs to frontal cortex and its impairment in mouse models of psychiatric dysfunctions. Presently, Dr. Wang is a Professor in the Department of Neuroscience and the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center. His current research continues to investigate the functional specialization, age-related alteration, and therapeutic modulation of cortical circuits involved in the cognitive and affective control of behaviors. In addition, he is taking leadership roles in the NIH-designated Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC) and the Network for Emotional Well-being and Brain Aging (NEW Brain Aging) Center at the University of Rochester.
A fundamental challenge in neuroscience is to elucidate brain circuit architecture for adaptive control of behavior. Neurodevelopment offers a unique lens to illuminate the emergence of circuit architecture and function, and this approach is increasingly applied to investigate the origins of neurological and psychiatric disorders. The long-term goal of Dr. Wang’s laboratory is to discover the logic and mechanisms connecting the functional organization of brain circuits to their developmental and evolutionary origins, which will ultimately improve brain therapeutic design based on generative principles.
The current research in Dr. Wang’s laboratory encompasses a series of questions on the cerebral cortical circuits involved in adaptive behaviors. For example, how does the frontal cortex organize its long-range connections with other cortical areas to exert executive control of action and perception? How do endogenous and exogenous neurochemicals, such as dopamine and cannabinoid, modulate intercortical communication in both normal and neuropathological states? What are the developmental mechanisms regulating the maturation of long-range intercortical and neuromodulatory projections? How do genetic mutations identified in neurodevelopmental disorders impact the development of cortical circuit architecture and communication? We use both rodent (mouse) and non-human primate (marmoset) models for mechanistic investigation and cross-species comparison, and collaborate with human and clinical scientists for translational application. A variety of innovative technologies for monitoring and manipulation of neural circuits, such as in vivo imaging and electrophysiology, opto/chemogenetic modulation, neuroanatomical circuit tracing, and machine learning-based behavior analysis, are integrated in our laboratory to address these research questions.