Research & Publications
Fascinated by how the brain controls complex physiological functions and behaviors in higher animals, Dr. Gao pursued his career in neurobiology under the mentorship of the renowned neurophysiologist Professor Te-Pei Feng (AKA T. P. Feng) at the Shanghai Institute of Physiology, Chinese Academy of Science, obtaining his PhD in 1996. In the fall of the same year, he joined Dr. Anthony van den Pol’s laboratory as postdoctoral associate in the Section of Neurosurgery at the Yale University School of Medicine.
Trained as an electrophysiologist, Dr. Gao’s early interests laid in investigating the modulation of activity in developing and mature hypothalamic neurons by neurotransmitters, neuropeptides and neurotrophic factors. He is the first investigator to characterize the cellular functions of neuropeptides hypocretin/orexin and melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) in nerve cells in the central nervous system (CNS). After establishing an independent research group at Yale, his current interests are to understand how biological processes at molecular, cellular and systems levels lead to the emergence of physiological functions (such as energy balance and sleep/wake regulation) and complex behaviors (such as reward seek/addiction, stress coping strategy and social behaviors) critical to animal survival. The group’s major discoveries provide first evidence that experience-dependent neural plasticity in neuronal systems (such as the hypocretinergic and MCHergic systems) in the lateral hypothalamus underlies promotion of positive energy balance and maintenance of wakefulness and arousal, which may contribute to the development of insomnia, drug addiction and obesity-associated behavioral changes in animals.
Education & Training
- Postdoctoral AssociateYale University School of Medicine (2000)
- PhDShanghai Institute of Physiology (1996)
- MSBeijing Normal University, Physiology (1993)
- BSNanjing University, Biology (1990)
- Hypocretin/orexin: a bridge between energy state and mental state in animals.Zoom conference 2020Invited lecture: Sub-Forum 2: The Basis of Brain Function, China Brain Science and Technology Conference (Organized by Biomedical Engineering Society of China and Tianjin University), Tianjin, China.
- Hypocretin/orexin: from peptide to systemJinan, China 2019Invited lecture: Orexin and Sleep Disturbances, the 11th Symposium of Chinese Sleep Research Society (Annual Acdemic Conference, Chinese Sleep Research Society), Jinan, Shandong Province, Chnia.
- Hypocretin/orexin and hypoarousal in vertebrate animalsNew Orleans, United States 2019Invited seminar. Tulane University Brain Institute, New Orlean, LA, USA.
- An impaired arousal is responsible for dysregulated behavioral responses in obese animalsBeijing, China 2019Workshop on Sleep Regulation and Circadian Rhythm (Organized by Chinese Sleep Research Society), Stanford Center at Peking University, Beijing, China.
- The deficiency of hypocretin system and hypoarousal in obesity.Shanghai, China 2018Invited seminar. The Institute of Neuroscience, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai, China.
- Neural plasticity in hypocretin neurons: the basis of hypocretinergic regulation of physiological and behavioral functions in animals.Chongqing, China 2015Invited seminar. Faculty of Psychology, Southwest University, Chongqing, China.
- Chasing behavioral trace: electrophysiological investigations of hypothalamic regulation of animal body and behavior.New Orleans, United States 2014Invited seminar. Tulane Neuroscience Seminar Series. Tulane University, New Orleans, LA.
- Electrophysiology in hypocretin/orexin neurons: an interface between "omes" and animal behaviors.UNIVERSITY PARK, PA, USA 2012Invited seminar. Dept. Biology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802.
- “Learning” in the hypothalamus.Shanghai, China 2011International Symposium on Brain Functions and Diseases. Institute of Neurobiology, Institutes of Brain Science, and the State Key Laboratory of Medical Neurobiology, Fudan University, Shanghai, China.
- Lateral Hypothalamic Control of Energy Homeostasis.New Haven, United States 2011The first annual symposium of Yale Program in Integrative Cell Signaling and Neurobiology of Metabolism (ICSNM). New Haven, CT, USA
- Synaptic plasticity and sleep.Chongqing, China 2010Chongqing International Symposium on Neuroscience. Invited speaker and session co-chair. Chongqing, China.
- Yin and Yang in the lateral hypothalamus.Bethesda, United States 2009PWS Research Strategy Workshop, Bethesda, MD.
- Synaptic plasticity in hypocretin neurons: re-setting arousal threshold.Toronto, Canada 2009Invited lecture: From the synapse to sleep homeostasis, 4th Conference of the Canadian Sleep Society (CSS)
- Learning and Adaptation in the Lateral Hypothalamus.New Haven, United States 2008Seminar. John B Pierce Laboratory, New Haven, CT
- Synaptic plasticity in mouse hypocretin/orexin neurons.Oulu, Finland 2008Invited lecture: 10 Years of Hypocretins/Orexins -physiology and pathophysiology, Acta Physiologica International Symposium
- Long-term potentiation underlies adaptive changes in hypocretin/orexin neurons.Shanghai, China 2008Invited Seminar
- Experience-dependent synaptic plasticity in hypocretin neurons.Palo Alto, United States 2008Sleep Medicine Grand Rounds Seminar, Center for sleep research, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, USA.
- "Stay up late" induces synaptic plasticity in neurons in the brainZhenjiang, China 2008Jiangsu University, Jiangsu, China.
- Adenosinergic modulation of hypocretin/orexin-containing neurons in the lateral hypothalamusMinneapolis, United States 2007Invited lecture: New insight from adenosine research, SLEEP 2007 21st Annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies. Minneapolis, MN, USA.
- The Lateral Hypothalamus: from Peptide to Neuron.Shanghai, China 2004Invited seminar. The State Key Laboratory of Medical Neurobiology, Shanghai Medical College, Fudan University, Shanghai, China. Sponsored by Shanghai Municipal Science and Technology Commission.
Honors & Recognition
|Mentored Research Scientist Development Award||NIH||2003|
|Scientist Development Grant||American Heart Association||2001|
|Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada||New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) external reviewer||2020|
|Swiss National Science Foundation||External reviewer||2020|
|Institute of Neuroscience, Chinese Academy of Sciences||Instructor, Mini-Course on the hypothalamic control of physiological functions and behaviors in animals, Institute of Neuroscience, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai, China.||2019|
|Vanderbilt University Diabetes Research and Training Center (DRTC)||Pilot and Feasibility Project reviewer||2019|
|National Institute of Health||NIH ZRG1 IFCN T 50 BRAINInitiative: Targeted BRAIN Circuits Projects (R01 and R34 applications) (ad hoc member)||2018|
|National Institute of Health||NIH Neuroendocrinology, Neuroimmunology, Rhythms and Sleep (NNRS) study section (ad hoc member)||2018|
|Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC, UK)||BBSRC research grant reviewer||2017|
|National Institute of Health||NIH Neuroendocrinology, Neuroimmunology, Rhythms and Sleep (NNRS) study section (ad hoc member)||2017|
|National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC)||Key Program Grant reviewer||2015 - 2018|
|Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)||NSERC Discovery Grant reviewer||2015|
|French National Research Agency||French National Research Agency Grant reviewer||2015|
|Wellcome Trust||Wellcome Trust Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship||2014|
|National Institute of Health||NIH Neuroendocrinology, Neuroimmunology, Rhythms and Sleep (NNRS) study section (ad hoc member)||2013|
|National Institute of Health||NIH Neuroendocrinology, Neuroimmunology, Rhythms and Sleep (NNRS) study section (ad hoc member)||2012|
|United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation||Grant Reviewer||2012|
|National Library of Medicine (NLM)/National Institute of Health (NIH)||G13 peer review committee of the National Library of Medicine (NLM)/NIH (ad hoc member)||2011|
|Foundation for Prader-Willi Research||Grant Reviewer||2011|
|BBSRC, UK||Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), UK||2010 - 2011|
|Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences||Speaker, Reproductive Sciences Seminar Program||2010 - 2018|
|NIH||NIH RG1 IFCN-H (02) M Member Conflict: Integrative Neuroscience (ad hoc member)||2010 - 2011|
|Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada||External Reviewer||2010|
|American Diabetes Association (ADA)||Peer review of grant applications||2009 - 2011|
|National Institute of Health||NIH Neuroendocrinology, neuroimmunology and behavior (NNB) study section (ad hoc member)||2009|
|National Science Foundation||Peer review of grant applications||2008|
|Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences||Mentor, The Discovery to Cure summer internship program||2007 - 2017|