Email: yong.rao [at] mcgill.ca
Tel.: 514-934-1934 ext. 42520
Professor | Neurology & Neurosurgery, Medicine (Dept. & Faculty)
Researcher | Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre
Associate Member | Department of Biology
Neuronal circuit formation
Normal brain function relies on proper formation of neural networks during embryonic development. The establishment of neuronal circuitry during development requires the proper guidance and targeting of growing axons, the proper organization of axonal and dendritic arbors at the target region, and the appropriate synaptic formation. My lab have chosen the powerful genetic model system Drosophila melanogaster to study the molecular mechanisms controlling neuronal circuit formation, which led to the identification of a number of important and evolutionarily conserved genes. We are currently taking a combination of biochemical, molecular and genetic approaches to understand the exact mechanisms by which these genes regulate neuronal circuit formation during development. These studies are not only essential for understanding the fundamental biology of neuronal hardwiring during brain development, but also provide invaluable clues for the development of new therapeutic strategies aiming to regenerate functional circuits after nerve injuries in patients.
Neural basis of behaviors
One key question in Neuroscience is how animal behaviors are controlled at molecular and cellular levels. Drosophila melanogaster is a very powerful model system for understanding neural basis of animal behaviors, due to the recent development of elegant and powerful tools to suppress or activate neuronal activity in living flies in a cell-type-specific manner, and the availability of a large collection of mutant lines. My lab is interested in understanding the mechanisms controlling directional choice after mechanical stimulation, and aggression.
Directional choice after mechanical stimulation: The ability to select a different moving direction after hitting an object is essential to animal survival. To understand molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying directional choice behavior, we are currently taking a combination of molecular and genetic approaches to elucidate molecular networks and neuronal circuits involved.
Aggression: Aggression is an important behavior evolutionarily conserved in animals, and is essential to the survival and evolution of animals. Our recent work led to the identification of several genes that regulate aggressive behaviors. We are focusing on understanding the action of these genes in neuronal circuits that control aggression.