My group studies the neural circuits underlying cognitive function and dysfunction as they relate to anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and autism. We use sophisticated technologies to manipulate specific neural circuits in the rodent brain to determine their role in behavior. We are interested in changes in synaptic strength that may underlie mental disorders.
Understanding the link between neural circuits and behavior has been the focus of research in my lab. We are particularly interested in studying the synaptic and circuit mechanisms underlying reward processing, attention, and learning and memory; as well as synaptic and circuit dysfunctions responsible for maladaptive behaviors that are related to major mental disorders. We integrate in vitro and in vivo electrophysiology, imaging, molecular, genetic, optogenetic, and chemogenetic techniques to probe and manipulate the function of specific neural circuits – with a focus on the fear and reward circuits – in the rodent brain, and to determine how these circuits participate in adaptive or maladaptive behavioral responses in various tasks.
Scientists show how brain circuit generates anxiety
May 29, 2018
Research suggests a possible target for future anti-anxiety drugs Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Neuroscientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have identified a neural circuit in the amygdala, the brain’s seat of emotion processing, that gives rise to anxiety. Their insight has revealed the critical role of a molecule called dynorphin, which could serve...
Portrait of a Neuroscience Powerhouse
April 27, 2018
At noon every Tuesday from September through June, scenes from a revolution in neuroscience are playing out at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Week after week, over 100 scientists cram themselves into a ground-floor meeting room in the Beckman Laboratory. It’s standing-room only as everyone in the Neuroscience Program settles in to hear details of the...
CSHL’s Bo Li receives BRAIN Initiative funding
December 28, 2017
CSHL Professor Bo Li and two collaborators at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) have been awarded a new grant under the BRAIN Initiative of the National Institutes of Health. The award of $5 million, apportioned over five years, supports research to better understand how paired structures called amygdalae, set deep in the brain, are...
Research revises our knowledge of how the brain learns to fear
October 23, 2017
Cold Spring Harbor, NY – Our brains wire themselves up during development according to a series of remarkable genetic programs that have evolved over millions of years. But so much of our behavior is the product of things we learn only after we emerge from the womb. We aren’t born with instructions to avoid putting...
Was it better or worse than you expected? Your basal ganglia know – so you can act accordingly
September 21, 2016
Identifying a neural circuit that processes evaluations, with implications for understanding depression Cold Spring Harbor, NY — You make reservations at a restaurant, expecting the food to be good. If the meal turns out to be superb—even better than expected—that’s information you will want to remember, so you can go back again. The reverse applies...
CSHL scientists Bo Li and Je Lee win HFSP Research Grant awards
April 12, 2016
Cold Spring Harbor, NY – Two scientists, both leaders of research labs at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), are among 25 teams that have won Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) Research Program Grants for 2016. The awards were announced by the International Human Frontier Science Program Organization (HFSPO), based in Strasbourg, France. The two CSHL...
Luis A. Mejia, Ph.D., is named 2015 Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Fellow
July 22, 2015
Cold Spring Harbor, NY – Luis A. Mejia, Ph.D., a postdoctoral investigator at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), has been named a 2015 Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Fellow. The announcement was made by the Board of Directors of the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation. Mejia, who will receive funding for at least two years from...
Drs. Kepecs and Li honored with 2015 NARSAD Independent Investigator grant awards
May 12, 2015
Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Two neuroscientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have been awarded prestigious NARSAD Independent Investigator grants. The announcement was made by the New York City-based Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (BBRF). Adam Kepecs, Ph.D., and Bo Li, Ph.D., both CSHL associate professors, were among 40 mid-career scientists from 30 institutions in...
WSBS Teaching Award 2015 for Bo Li
April 27, 2015
The Watson School treasures its teachers. When our students do great and amazing things, as they often do, there’s some part of that greatness and amazingness that we attribute to their teachers – the brave and hearty souls who trudge through suffix arrays, hairy eyeball suppressor screens, and the Nernst equation with the first-year students. ...
Scientists discover important communication mechanism between two brain areas implicated in schizophrenia
April 7, 2015
Disruptions in an inhibitory brain circuit between the thalamus and prefrontal cortex may underlie cognitive disorders such as schizophrenia Cold Spring Harbor, NY – The prefrontal cortex (PFC) plays an important role in cognitive functions such as attention, memory and decision-making. Faulty wiring between PFC and other brain areas is thought to give rise to...
Yu, K. and Ahrens, S. and Zhang, X. and Schiff, H. and Ramakrishnan, C. and Fenno, L. and Deisseroth, K. and Zhao, F. and Luo, M. H. and Gong, L. and He, M. and Zhou, P. and Paninski, L. and Li, B. (2017) The central amygdala controls learning in the lateral amygdala. Nat Neurosci, 20(12) pp. 1680-1685.
Stephenson-Jones, M. and Yu, K. and Ahrens, S. and Tucciarone, J. M. and van Huijstee, A. N. and Mejia, L. A. and Penzo, M. A. and Tai, L. H. and Wilbrecht, L. and Li, B. (2016) A basal ganglia circuit for evaluating action outcomes. Nature, 539(7628) pp. 289-293.
Penzo, M. A. and Robert, V. and Tucciarone, J. and De Bundel, D. and Wang, M. and Van Aelst, L. and Darvas, M. and Parada, L. F. and Palmiter, R. D. and He, M. and Huang, Z. J. and Li, B. (2015) The paraventricular thalamus controls a central amygdala fear circuit. Nature, 519(7544) pp. 455-459.
Ahrens, S. and Jaramillo, S. and Yu, K. and Ghosh, S. and Hwang, G. and Paik, R. and Lai, C. and He, M. and Huang, Z. J. and Li, B. (2015) ErbB4 regulation of a thalamic reticular nucleus circuit for sensory selection. Nature Neuroscience, 18 pp. 104-111.
Li, H. and Penzo, M. A. and Taniguchi, H. and Kopec, C. D. and Huang, Z. J. and Li, B. (2013) Experience-dependent modification of a central amygdala fear circuit. Nature Neuroscience, 16(3) pp. 332-339.Additional materials of the author at
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