Yuchin Albert Pan, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC
Commonwealth Center for Innovative Technology Eminent Research Scholar in Developmental Neuroscience, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC
Associate Professor, Health Sciences & Education, Office of the Provost, Virginia Tech
During development, neurons establish connections, called synapses, with each other to form functional neural circuits. The assembly of neural circuits is important for normal behavior as well as neuropsychiatric diseases. The immense structural complexity of the human brain (which contains ~80 billion neurons and trillions of synapses), however, makes it challenging to parse out how developmental mechanisms affect connectivity. Zebrafish serves as a more accessible vertebrate model to explore this problem, as its brain is smaller with only about 100,000 neurons in the larvae, and it’s optically translucent. Furthermore, more than 70 percent of human disease genes have functional homologs in zebrafish, making it possible to generate disease-specific zebrafish models to investigate the pathophysiology of human disorders.
My lab utilizes zebrafish to understand how neural circuits for visually guided behaviors are assembled and more generally, how connectivity patterns are determined across brain regions. We make use of various zebrafish mutants and disease models to understand how genes and circuits specify simple visual behaviors during normal development and during disease states. One focus of the lab is the etiology of saccade failure (ocular motor apraxia), which is characterized by the loss fast eye movements. Saccade failure is observed in many genetic neurological disorders, but the neural mechanisms are still unclear. We have created a novel zebrafish model of saccade failure and are working to uncover the underlying developmental and neurological deficits. We also have a long-standing interest in developing new tools and reagents for visualizing anatomy, development, and neuronal connectivity (e.g. Brainbow and transsynaptic neural circuit tracers). Work is currently underway to generate viral neural circuit tools that would combine cell type-specific targeting, axonal tracing, and physiological analyses. The application of these tools will allow rapid and systematic mapping of the zebrafish brain and provide an entry point to understand how genes affect connectivity in neuropsychiatric disorders.
For a more complete listing of Dr. Pan's publications, visit PubMed.
Education and Training
- Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis: Ph.D. , Neural Development
- National Taiwan University: B.S. , Zoology
- Medical College of Georgia, Augusta University
Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine, Department of Neurology
Co-Director, Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine Microscopy Facility
Co-Director, Transgenic Zebrafish Core Laboratory
Affiliate, James & Jean Culver Vision Discovery Institute
- Harvard University
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Brain Science
Awards and Honors
- First Place, Marine Biological Laboratory Photomicrography Contest, 2010
- Image of Distinction, Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition, 2009
- Fourth place, Olympus Bioscapes Digital Imaging Competition, 2008
- Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards for Individual Postdoctoral Fellow, 2007
- Finalist, Upstate Young Cell Signaler Award, 2005