Dr. Haijiang Cai's lab studies neural circuitry mechanism of behaviors in health and disease, and develop research tools as well as disease therapies. Recently, the lab has identified specific neural circuits in a brain region called amygdala that play important roles in both emotion and feeding behavior, which could be targeted to treat eating disorders or depression.
Feeding and anxiety are two conserved behaviors critical to survival and health in all mammals. These two behaviors are interacting with each other in health and disease. Patients with abnormal feeding behaviors during eating disorders or obesity are usually associated with anxiety and depression. These two behaviors are controlled by distinct neural circuits distributed across multiple brain regions. However, whether the neural circuits underlying these two behaviors have overlap or interactions is still unknown. The lab of Dr. Haijiang Cai studies the neural circuits of animal behaviors, with a focus on understanding how the neural circuits regulate feeding and emotional behaviors. The recent work from his lab identified a specific population of neurons in the amygdala, a brain region well known for emotion control, also plays important roles in appetite control. His lab is using state-of-the-art optogenetics, chemogenetics, electrophysiology and in vivo microendoscope calcium imaging to dissect the neural circuits. This research will help understand how feeding and anxiety interact with each other, and provide new insight in developing drugs to treat eating and emotional disorders with fewer side effect. Keywords: Neural circuits, Behavior, Feeding, Anxiety