Faculty Research Page

Yang Dan

Yang Dan

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and Professor of Neurobiology*
*Nan Fung Life Sciences Chancellor's Chair in Neuroscience

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Research Interests

Our research aims to elucidate (1) what circuits in the mammalian brain control sleep, and (2) mechanisms by which the frontal cortex exerts top-down executive control. We use a variety of techniques, including optogenetics, electrophysiology, imaging, and virus-mediated circuit tracing.

Current Projects

Neural circuits controlling sleep. Using optogenetic manipulation, optrode recording, and cell-type-specific calcium imaging, we identify neuronal types that play critical roles in the generation of rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep. Local synaptic interactions between cell types are measured by recordings in brain slices, and long-range connections are mapped using a variety of viral tools.

Function of the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Combining electrophysiological recording, calcium imaging, and optogenetic manipulation in mice performing PFC-dependent tasks, we aim to understand how the PFC generate task-related activity, and how the activity regulates the downstream targets for optimal behavioral control.

Selected Publications

Li, Y., Lu, H., Cheng, P., Ge, S., Xu, H., Shi, S.-H., and Dan, Y. (2012). Clonally related visual cortical neurons show similar stimulus feature selectivity. Nature 486, 118-121. 

Lee, S.-H., Kwan, A.C., Zhang, S., Phoumthipphavong, V., Flannery, J.G., Masmanidis, S.C., Taniguchi, H., Huang, Z.J., Zhang, F., Boyden, E.S., Deisseroth, K., and Dan, Y. (2012). Activation of specific interneurons improves V1 feature selectivity and visual perception. Nature 488, 379-83.

Zhang, S., Xu, M., Kamigaki, T., Hoang, J.P., Chang, W.C., Jenvay, S., Miyamichi, K., Luo, L., Dan, Y. (2014). Long-range and local circuits for top-down modulation of visual cortex processing. Science 345, 660-665.

Pinto, L., Dan, Y. (2015) Cell-type-specific activity in prefrontal cortex during goal-directed behavior. Neuron 87, 437-450.

Weber, F., Chung, S., Beier, K.T., Luo, L., Dan, Y. (2015). Control of REM sleep by ventral medulla GABAergic neurons. Nature 526, 435-438.

Xu, M., Chung, S., Zhang, S., Zhong, P., Ma, C., Chang, W.-C., Weissbourd, B., Sakai, N., Luo, L., Nishino, S., and Dan, Y. (2015). Basal forebrain circuit for sleep-wake control. Nat. Neurosci. 18, 1641-1647.

Zhang, S., Xu, M., Chang, W.-C., Ma, C., Do, J.P.H., Jeong, D., Lei, T., Fan, J.L. & Dan, Y. (2016). Organization of long-range inputs and outputs of frontal cortex for top-down control. Nat. Neurosci. 19, 1733-1742.

Kamigaki, T., Dan, Y. (2017). Delay activity of specific prefrontal interneuron subtypes modulates memory-guided behavior. Nat. Neurosci. 20, 854-863.

Chung, S., Weber, F., Zhong, P., Tan, C.L., Nguyen, T.N., Beier, K.T., Hörmann, N., Chang, W.C., Zhang, Z., Do, J.P., Yao, S., Krashes, M.J., Tasic, B., Cetin, A., Zeng, H., Knight, Z.A., Luo, L., Dan, Y. (2017). Identification of preoptic sleep neurons using retrograde labelling and gene profiling. Nature 545, 477-481.

Chen, K.-S., Xu, M., Zhang, Z., Chang, W.-C. Gaj, T., Schaffer, D.V., and Dan, Y. (2018) A Hypothalamic switch for REM and non-REM sleep. Neuron 97, 1168-1176.

Liu, D., and Dan, Y. (2019). A Motor Theory of Sleep-Wake Control: Arousal-Action Circuit. Annu Rev Neurosci 42, 27-46.

Zhang, Z., Zhong, P., Hu, F., Barger, Z., Ren, Y., Ding, X., Li, S., Weber, F., Chung, S., Palmiter, R.D., and Dan, Y.(2019). An excitatory circuit in the perioculomotor midbrain for mon-REM sleep control. Cell 177, 1293-1307.

Ma, C., Zhong, P., Liu, D., Barger, Z.K., Zhou, L., Chang, W.C., Kim, B., and Dan, Y. (2019). Sleep regulation by neurotensinergic neurons in a thalamo-amygdala circuit. Neuron 103, 323-334.

Zhong P., Zhang Z., Barger Z., Ma C., Liu D., Ding X., Dan Y. (2019). Control of Non-REM Sleep by Midbrain Neurotensinergic Neurons. Neuron 104, 795-809. 

Hu F., Kamigaki T., Zhang Z., Zhang S., Dan U., Dan Y. (2019). Prefrontal Corticotectal Neurons Enhance Visual Processing through the Superior Colliculus and Pulvinar Thalamus. Neuron 104,1141-1152.

Liu D., Li W., Ma C., Zheng W., Yao Y., Tso C.F., Zhong P., Chen X., Song J.H., Choi W., Paik S.-B., Han H., and Dan Y. (2020). A Common Hub for Sleep and Motor Control in the Substantia Nigra. Science 367, 440-445.

Photo courtesy of HHMI, credit Noah Berger.

Last Updated 2020-09-12