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Xiao-Bing Gao, PhD

Senior Research Scientist

Research Summary

The lateral hypothalamus (LH) plays a substantial role in a number of functions including sensorimotor integration, energy homeostasis, sleep-wake regulation, addiction, emotion and regulation of the autonomic nervous system. It has been shown that the LH is a central hub receiving physiological, behavioral and environmental inputs from and sending outputs to other brain structures to participate in homeostatic and behavioral functions. Our long-term goal is to understand how signaling at molecular, cellular and systems levels leads to the emergence of instinctive behaviors critical for animal survival and how adaptive and maladaptive changes in the LH lead to diseases and conditions such as obesity, diabetes, sleep disorders, etc.

Specialized Terms: Neurotransmission; Neurotransmitter response and synaptic plasticity; Cellular physiology of neuropeptides (hypocretin/orexin, melanin concentrating hormone, neuropeptide Y, ghrelin, leptin, and a-MSH); Ion channels (Na+, Ca2+, K+ channels); Electrophysiology/patch clamp recording; calcium imaging; Hypothalamus/lateral hypothalamic area; Energy homeostasis/feeding regulation; Sleep homeostasis and regulation; Drug addiction

Extensive Research Description

The lateral hypothalamus (LH) plays a substantial role in a number of functions including sensorimotor integration, energy homeostasis, sleep-wake regulation, addiction, emotion and regulation of the autonomic nervous system. It has been shown that the LH is a central hub receiving physiological, behavioral and environmental inputs from and sending outputs to other brain structures to participate in homeostatic and behavioral functions.

Despite its critical role in the survival of individuals and species, it is largely unclear how the LH integrates information from internal and external environments to exert its actions. Moreover, it is also not clear how the neural circuitry centered on neurons in the LH make adaptive changes to accommodate physiological, behavioral and environmental changes. Our long-term goal is to understand the logic of how signaling at molecular, cellular and circuit levels leads to the emergence of instinctive behaviors critical for animal survival.

Specifically, the questions that we are pursuing include: 1) how neural circuitry in the LH participates in the regulation of homeostatic and behavioral functions of the brain; 2) how neural circuitry in the LH is modified by physiological, behavioral and environmental changes in mature animals; 3) how maternal and early postnatal experience leads to changes in the development of neural circuitry responsible for dysfunctions of the LH during adulthood.

1. Hypocretinergic control of drug addiction

The long-term goal of this proposal is to bridge the gap between clinical studies and basic research on the role of the hypocretin system in cocaine addiction-related behaviors in animals. Supported by NIH/NIDA

2. MCHergic control of feeding and energy balance

In this project we propose to identify interactions between MCH neurons and hypocretin neurons in the lateral hypothalamus in the regulation of feeding behavior and energy balance in mice. Supported by NIH/NIDDK

Coauthors

Research Interests

Action Potentials; Hypothalamus; Membrane Potentials; Synaptic Transmission; Neuronal Plasticity; Neurophysiology; Sleep Wake Disorders; Glutamic Acid; Synaptic Potentials

Public Health Interests

Obesity; Substance Use, Addiction

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Selected Publications

Clinical Trials

ConditionsStudy Title
Mental Health & Behavioral Research; Obesity & Weight ControlThe Gut-brain Axis: a Novel Target for Treating Behavioral Alterations in Obesity (CIDO OEA)