UCSF home page UCSF home page About UCSF UCSF Medical Center
UCSF navigation bar

Neuroscience Graduate Program at UCSF

Faculty - Vikaas Sohal, M.D./Ph.D.

Information Processing in Cortical Microcircuits: Optogenetic Tools and Implications for Psychiatric Disease

Research Description

We study circuits in the prefrontal cortex in order to understand (1) how the properties of individual prefrontal neurons, their inputs, and their interconnections give rise to emergent patterns of circuit activity, and (2) how these patterns of activity contribute to both normal cognition and the pathological behaviors associated with neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and autism. We believe that by understanding the process through which patterns of prefrontal circuit activity are generated, we can better understand the computations these circuits perform, and obtain a “map” of circuit function that will make it possible to identify ways of correcting circuit dysfunction in disease states. We carry out studies at multiple levels ranging from brain slices to freely behaving animals, and using a combination of techniques including optogenetics, computational modeling, whole cell recording, calcium imaging, EEG and LFP recording, and sophisticated behavioral assays. We are also part of the DARPA SUBNETS project, and in collaboration with our partner laboratories, we are working to (1) identify large scale patterns of activity in the human brain associated with neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety and (2) design new forms of responsive brain stimulation that treat these conditions.

Back to Top

Current Projects

  1. How are different classes of neurons in the prefrontal cortex "wired up?"

  2. How do neuromodulators such as dopamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine modulate prefronal circuit function and thereby regulate behavior?

  3. What are the roles of various subtypes of GABAergic neurons, and of synchronized neural oscillations in circuit function?

  4. How are prefrontal circuits altered in diseases such as schizophrenia and autism?

Back to Top

Lab Members

Ian Ellwood
Ph.D., M.I.T.

Tosha Patel
M.S., NYU-Polytechnic

Francisco Luongo
B.S., Stanford University

Kathleen Cho
Ph.D., M.I.T.

Audrey Brumback
M.D. / Ph.D., U. of Colorado

Anthony Lee
B.S., Duke University

Karuna Meda
B.S., University of Pennsylvania

Celia Hansen
Ph.D., U. of Copenhagen

Toby Marton
M.D., Ph.D., U.C. San Diego

Sarah Robinson,
B.S., Brandeis University

Jiggy Athilingam
B.S., Cornell University

Margaret Cunniff
B.S., M.I.T.

Lowry Kirkby
Ph.D., U.C. Berkeley

Jillian Iafrati
Ph.D., Méditerranean University – INMED

Back to Top

Selected Publications

  1. Gamma rhythms link prefrontal interneuron dysfunction with cognitive inflexibility in Dlx5/6+/- mice. Cho KKA, Hoch R, Lee AT, Patel T, Rubenstein JL, and Sohal VS. Neuron, 2015.
  2. A class of GABAergic neurons in the prefrontal cortex sends long-range projections to the nucleus accumbens and elicits acute avoidance behavior. Lee AT, Vogt D, Rubenstein JR, and Sohal VS. Journal of Neuroscience, 2014.
  3. Optogenetic approaches for investigating neural pathways implicated in schizophrenia and related disorders. Cho KKA and Sohal VS . Human Molecular Genetics, 2014.
  4. Pyramidal neurons in prefrontal cortex receive subtype-specific forms of excitation and inhibition.  Lee AT, Gee SM, Vogt D, Rubenstein JL, and Sohal VS. Neuron, 2014.
  5. Synaptic activity unmasks dopamine D2 receptor modulation of a specific class of layer V pyramidal neurons in prefrontal cortex.  Gee S, Ellwood I, Patel T, Luongo F, Deisseroth K, and Sohal VS. Journal of Neuroscience, 2012.
  6. Insights into cortical oscillations arising from optogenetic studies.  Sohal VS. Biological Psychiatry, 2012.
  7. Parvalbumin neurons and gamma rhythms enhance cortical microcircuit performance.  Sohal VS, Zhang F, Yizhar O, and Deisseroth KD. Nature, 2009.

Back to Top

Vikaas Sohal, M.D./Ph.D.





Physical Address

UCSF Mision Bay, Box 0444
675 Nelson Rising Lane, room 415C
San Francisco, CA  94158

Other Websites

Center for Integrative Neuroscience

Dept. of Psychiatry