Ph.D., University of Iowa, 1991
Neurophysiology; Drosophila; learning and memory; neurofibromatosis; signal transduction
We are interested in the neural basis of learning and memory in Drosophila. Accessibility to genetic tools and a relatively simple nervous system makes fruit flies ideal for gaining insights into how brain functions. One of major approaches we undertake is of studying genes implicated in human genetic disorders with a component of cognitive dysfunctions, including Alzheimer’s disease, NF1, Noonan syndrome, mental retardation, autism. Such an approach may allow us to identify molecular and cellular mechanisms that bear more general significance relevant not only to Drosophila but also to vertebrates. The study of genes relevant to mental retardation has allowed us to reveal, for the first time, that forgetting is an active process that can be evoked to erase memories. The study of point mutations identified in the Noonan syndrome has lead to the discovery of the molecular mechanisms that define the so-called the spacing effect, in which better memory is formed with multiple training trials spaced over time than massed together. In fact, studies of every such gene lead to an unexpected direction that is either new to the field or difficult to approach otherwise. We expect that such a genetic approach in combination with optical, electrophysiological, and behavioral analyses offers us a unique opportunity to uncover principles that govern how the nervous system processes, stores, forgets, and retrieves information.
Shuai, Y.C., Lu, B.Y., Hu, Y., Wang, L.Z., Sun, K., and Zhong, Y. 2010. Forgetting is regulated through Rac activity in Drosophila. Cell 140: 579–589.Pagani, M.R., Oishi, K., Gelb, B.D., and Zhong, Y. 2009. The phosphatase SHP2 regulates the spacing effect for long-term memory induction. Cell 139: 86-98.
Wang, Y., Guo, H.-F., Pologruto, T.A., Hannan, F., Hakker, I., Svoboda, K., and Zhong, Y. 2004. Stereotyped odor representation in the mushroom body of Drosophila revealed by GFP-based Ca2+ imaging. J. Neurosci. 24: 6507–6514
Iijima, K., Liu, H.-P., Chiang, A.-S., Konsolaki, M., and Zhong, Y. 2004. Dissecting the pathological effects of human Aβ40 and Aβ42 in Drosophila: A potential model for Alzheimer's disease. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 101: 6623–6628.
Guo, H.-F., Tong, J., Hannan, F., Luo, L., and Zhong, Y. 2000. A neurofibromatosis-1-regulated pathway is required for learning in Drosophila. Nature 403: 895–898.