Research and teaching
The brain is continuously shaped by the interaction of genetic and environmental factors during development and adulthood. This is a learning process that takes place in everyday life and leads to functional organization and reorganization of the brain (plasticity). Noticeably, cholinergic regulation via muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (mAChRs) plays an extremely critical role in such processing. Dysfunction of cholinergic system has been shown to be highly related to the mental disorders/cognitive deficits such as those seen in autism, schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease. However, the nature of such processes remains poorly understood. The central auditory system provides us with a unique model to study this process because of its laminar anatomical structure, systematic representation of sound frequency information as well as input-specific, mAChR-sensitive plasticity following auditory learning and experience.
The primary focus of Dr. Yan's laboratory has been on the neural mechanisms of auditory plasticity and cholinergic role in neural plasticity with the model of central auditory system. Specifically, we are addressing the central role midbrain-thalamus-cortex complex and the modulatory role of two of the five brain cholinergic groups in sound-guided auditory plasticity. The cholinergic groups are the nucleus basalis of the basal forebrain and the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus of the brainstem which send cholingergic projections to the auditory cortex thalamus and midbrain. The mAChR and its sub types are also investigated.
I am interested in teaching systems neuroscience and sensory physiology.