Like the splendid external world, the environment inside our body is constantly changing. The ability to monitor internal organ status by the nervous system is essential, ensuring an appropriate regulation of physiology and behavior to diverse body needs. What signals are critical for this communication between body organs and the brain? How are different organ cues being detected and processed? Are these pathways altered under certain disease conditions? The Chang lab uses state-of-the-art molecular, genetic, and imaging approaches including single-cell gene expression profiling, virus-based anatomical tracing, in vivo imaging, optogenetics, and chemogenetics to functionally dissect out diverse organ-to-brain circuits. Our goal is to better understand the important body-brain interface, and to develop novel neuronal-based therapeutic strategies for disease intervention.
The vagus nerve is a major body-brain axis that relays critical sensory information from the neck, chest, and abdomen, and controls basic autonomic functions of the respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive, and immune systems. Surgical, electrical, or pharmacological control of vagus nerve activity impacts numerous diseases. Our recent studies discover a multidimensional coding architecture of the vagal interoceptive system that ensures effective and efficient signal communication from visceral organs to the brain.
The Chang lab has special interests in the neuro-cardiac interactions as well as gut-brain axis in Parkinson’s disease.
Cardiovascular System; Cranial Nerves; Heart; Neural Pathways; Physiology; Vagus Nerve; Peripheral Nervous System; Ganglia, Sensory; Optogenetics