Dr. Lu received his Ph.D. degree from New York University (Ph.D., 2006). His graduate study, in the laboratory of Dr. Edward Ziff, was on biochemical characterization of neuronal glutamate receptors and their interacting proteins. He did his postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Dr. Roger Nicoll at the University of California, San Francisco, where he combined electrophysiological and single-cell genetic approaches to study excitatory synaptic transmission.
Synapses, the specialized cellular junctions, are essential for rapid communication between neurons. These synaptic junctions physically and functionally connect individual neurons into continuous neural circuits that give rise to behavior and cognition. One prominent feature of the synapse is that it is highly plastic, which underlies many brain functions, including learning and memory. How are synaptic connections between neurons formed, how is synaptic strength regulated, what is the role of neuronal activity in the regulation of synapse formation and synaptic plasticity, how does the regulation of synaptic strength influence animal behavior, and what are the molecular mechanisms underlying synaptic dysfunctions in brain disorders?
We mainly rely on rodent hippocampus as our model system to study these questions. Currently we employ molecular, biochemical and genomic approaches to identify novel players in synaptic function, use molecular, genetic, optical and pharmacological approaches to manipulate synapses, and utilize electrophysiological, genetic and behavioral approaches to examine synaptic and neural circuit function and dysfunction (for details, please see https://sites.google.com/site/lulaboratorynih/home). Ongoing projects in the lab include,
1. Molecular, cellular and systems mechanisms for the regulation of development and function of inhibitory synapses/circuits
2. GABAA receptor auxiliary subunits and development of novel GABAA receptor psychopharmacology
3. Molecules and circuits involved in sleep regulation and general anesthesia