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Stadtman Investigator

Yuanyuan Liu, Ph.D.

Somatosensation and pain unit

Building 35A Room 3E410
Convent Dr
Bethesda MD 20892
Office: 301-496-4898

Dr. Liu joins the NIH as a Stadtman Investigator with a joint appointment in the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). Dr. Yuanyuan (Kevin) Liu obtained his B.S. degree in biological pharmacy in Nanjing University, China. He received his Ph.D. from the State University of New York, focusing on the role of an RNA binding protein in axon development and regeneration in Xenopus Laevis. Dr. Liu then completed his postdoc training in Dr. Zhigang He’s lab at Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. During his postdoc training, he optimized an elegant, multi-step viral-based intersectional targeting tool, which he used to dissect the role of corticospinal neurons in controlling distinct spinal circuits involved in fine motor control and tactile sensation. Dr. Liu’s unit, the Somatosensation and Pain Unit, will continue his work deciphering the supraspinal circuits which control somatosensory perception and pain.

Descending supraspinal pathways integrate signals from multiple brain regions and are the neural basis by which our brain controls our body. As yet, the design principles for such top-down control remain elusive.

The mission of our lab is: (1) To decipher supraspinal circuits in somatosensory perception. (2) To investigate the underlying mechanisms of top-down control in chronic pain states. To achieve these goals, we will use a multidisciplinary approach combining intersectional viral-mediated gene manipulation, in vivo imaging, and electrophysiological and single-cell sequencing techniques. Ultimately, our research will help explain how our mental states directly alter normal and pathological somatosensory perception in different contexts or mood states, and will uncover potential targets for treating pain.

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  • 1) Barak, B., Zhang, Z., Liu, Y., Nir, A., Trangle, S., Ennis, M., Levandowski, K., Wang, D., Quast, K., Boulting, G., Li, Y., Bayarsaihan, D., He, Z. and Feng, G. (2019)
  • Neuronal deletion of Gtf2i, associated with Williams syndrome, causes behavioral and myelin alterations rescuable by a remyelinating drug
  • Nat. Neurosci, 22, 700-708
  • 2) Liu, Y., Latremoliere, A., Li, X., Zhang, Z., Chen, M., Wang, X., Fang, C., Zhu, J., Alexandre, C., Gao, Z., Chen, B., Ding, X., Zhou, J., Chen, C., Wang, K., Woolf, C.J., and He, Z (2018)
  • Touch and tactile neuropathic pain sensitivity are set by corticospinal projections
  • Nature, 561: 547–550
  • 3) Liu, Y., Wang, X., Li, W., Zhang, Q., Li, Y., Zhang, Z., Zhu, J., Chen, B., Williams, P. R., Zhang, Y., Yu, B., and He, Z. (2017)
  • A sensitized IGF1 treatment restores corticospinal axon-dependent functions
  • Neuron, 95: 817-833
  • 4) Wang, X.*, Liu, Y.*, Li, X., Zhang, Z., Yang, H., Zhang, Y., Williams, P.R., Alwahab, N.S.A., Kapur, K., Yu, B., Zhang, Y., Chen, M., Ding, H., Gerfen, C.R., Wang, K.H., and He, Z. (2017)
  • Deconstruction of corticospinal circuits for goal-directed motor skills
  • Cell , 171: 440-455
  • 5) Jin, D., Liu, Y., Sun, F., Wang X., Liu, X., and He, Z. (2015)
  • Restoration of skilled locomotion by sprouting corticospinal axons induced by co-deletion of PTEN and SOCS3
  • Nat. Commun, 6:8074
  • 6) Liu, Y., Yu, H., Deaton, S.K., and Szaro, B.G. (2012)
  • hnRNP K, an RNA-binding protein, is required for optic axon regeneration in Xenopus laevis
  • J. Neurosci, 32: 3563-3574
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