Helen Hou

Helen Hou

Assistant Professor

Ph.D., Harvard University, 2017

hou@cshl.edu | 516-367-8823

Hou Lab Website   Faculty Profile

The brain-body interaction is a two-sided coin: The brain can control movement of the body to fulfill behaviors, and behavior itself can affect brain function. We study how the brain orchestrates motor and physiological control in natural and innate behaviors, focusing on facial expression.

Facial expression conveys complex and nuanced emotions. How facial expressions are produced and adapted, and how these processes change in mental disorders remains unknown, largely due to the complexity of the behavior in humans, and a lack of cellular-level understanding of the underlying neurobiology. In The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, Darwin explored the connection of emotional states to organization of movements, and characterized the universal nature of facial expression and its anatomical and musculature origin, such as lifting of the eyebrow in surprise. Underlying the rich tapestry of facial expressions is a group of facial muscles, directly controlled by motor neurons in the facial nucleus in the brainstem. Many of the machineries of facial expression are highly conserved in mammals including rodents.

My lab studies how the brain orchestrates motor control in natural and innate behaviors, specifically the neural mechanisms underlying the dynamic control of facial expression using rodents as a model, applying electrophysiological, imaging, neuroanatomical, behavioral, and computational analyses. To solve these puzzles, we leverage the “brainstem bottleneck,” evolutionarily conserved integration nodes through which all communication between forebrain and spinal cord must funnel.

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All Publications

Central Network Dynamics Regulating Visceral and Humoral Functions

8 Nov 2017 | The Journal of Neuroscience | 37(45):10848-10854
Valentino, Rita, Guyenet, Patrice, Hou, Xun, Herman, Melissa

Central Control Circuit for Context-Dependent Micturition

22 Sep 2016 | Cell | 167(1):73-86
Hou, Xun, Hyun, Minsuk, Taranda, Julian, Huang, Kee, Todd, Emmalee, Feng, Danielle, Atwater, Emily, Croney, Donyell, Zeidel, Mark, Osten, Pavel, Sabatini, Bernardo

Promiscuous binding of extracellular peptides to cell surface class I MHC protein.

20 Mar 2012 | Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA | 109(12):4580-4585
Eisen, Herman, Hou, Xun, Shen, Chase, Wang, Kaidi, Tanguturi, Varsha, Smith, Crysela, Kozyrytska, Katerina, Nambiar, Lakshmi, McKinley, Carol, Chen, Jianzhu, Cohen, Richard

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