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Neuroscience Graduate Program at UCSF

Faculty - Vikaas Sohal, M.D./Ph.D.

Information Processing in Cortical Microcircuits: Optogenetic Tools and Implications for Psychiatric Disease

Research Description

We study microcircuits in the prefrontal cortex in order to understand how the properties of prefrontal neurons and their connections give rise to emergent patterns of circuit activity.  We are excited about this approach, because we believe that these emergent patterns of activity play critical roles in both normal cognition and the abnormal behaviors associated with neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.  Thus, we hope that by understanding the process through which these patterns are generated, we will elucidate the kinds of computations that these circuits perform, and obtain a “map” of circuit function that will help us to identify ways of correcting circuit dysfunction in disease states. We use a combination of techniques including optogenetics, brain slice electrophysiology, computational modeling, whole cell patch clamp recording, calcium imaging, EEG recording, local drug infusion in vivo, and behavioral assays.

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Current Projects

  1. How are different classes of neurons in the prefrontal cortex "wired up?"

  2. How do dopamine and other neuromodulators affect cells and synapses in ways that can alter circuit function and behavior?

  3. What are the roles of inhibitory interneurons and oscillations in circuit function?

  4. How are prefrontal circuits altered in diseases such as schizophrenia, autism, and chronic pain?

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Lab Members

Anthony Lee
B.S., Duke University

Karuna Meda
B.S., University of Pennsylvania

Celia Hansen
Ph.D., U. of Copenhagen

Toby Marton
M.D., Ph.D., UCSD

Vikram Rao
M.D., Ph.D., UCSF

Ian Ellwood
Ph.D., M.I.T.

Tosha Patel
M.S., NYU-Polytechnic

Steven Gee
B.S., CSU-Los Angeles

Audrey Brumback
M.D. / Ph.D., U. of Colorado

Francisco Luongo
B.S., Stanford University

Kathleen Cho
Ph.D., M.I.T.

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Selected Publications

  1. Sohal VS and Huguenard JR (2005). Inhibitory coupling specifically generates emergent gamma oscillations in diverse cell types. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 102: 18638-43.
  2. Sohal VS*, Zhang F*, Yizhar O, and Deisseroth KD (2009). Parvalbumin neurons and gamma rhythms enhance cortical microcircuit performance.  Nature 459: 698-702.
  3. Yizhar O, Fenno LE, Prigge M, Schneider F, Davidson TJ, O'Shea DJ, Sohal VS, Goshen I, Finkelstein J, Paz JT, Stehfest K, Fudim R, Ramakrishnan C, Huguenard JR, Hegemann P, Deisseroth K (2011). Neocortical excitation/inhibition balance in information processing and social dysfunction.  Nature 477: 171-8. 
  4. Sohal VS (2012). Insights into cortical oscillations arising from optogenetic studies.  Biological Psychiatry, Available online ahead of print.
  5. Gee S, Ellwood I, Patel T, Luongo F, Deisseroth K, and Sohal VS (2012). Synaptic activity unmasks dopamine D2 receptor modulation of a specific class of layer V pyramidal neurons in prefrontal cortex.  Journal of Neuroscience 32: 4959-71.


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Vikaas Sohal, M.D./Ph.D.





Physical Address

UCSF Mision Bay, Box 0444
675 Nelson Rising Lane, room 415C
San Francisco, CA  94158

Other Websites

Center for Integrative Neuroscience

Dept. of Psychiatry