Amar Sahay

Principal Investigator
Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Center for Regenerative Medicine, Mass General
Principal Faculty, Harvard Stem Cell Institute
Associate Member, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

Massachusetts General Hospital
Richard B. Simches Research Center
185 Cambridge Street
Boston, MA 02114
Phone: 617-643-4371 (office), 617-724-4978 (lab)

Dr. Sahay is an associate professor at the Center for Regenerative Medicine and the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School. He is also principal faculty of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute of Harvard University.

The incidence and complexity of mental illnesses and cognitive impairments associated with ageing and Alzheimer’s disease underscores the need to develop novel treatments. The mission of the Sahay Lab is to generate fundamental insights into the functions of the dentate gyrus and the role of adult hippocampal neurogenesis, the process by which neural stem cells generate dentate granule neurons throughout life, in memory processing and modulation of mood. By integrating cellular, circuit, systems and behavioral level approaches, we aspire to rejuvenate and reengineer the hippocampus to optimize circuit performance and memory processing. We predict that this strategy will impact circuit-based endophenotypes shared across diseases such as PTSD, Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline.

To address this goal, we have established a multifaceted research program that integrates inducible mouse- and viral-genetics, pharmaco- and optogenetics, synaptic tracing, in vivo awake behaving optical imaging, two photon imaging, human cellular reprogramming and behavioral analysis. Specifically, we are interested in the following questions:

  1. How are neural stem cell activation-quiescence decisions physiologically regulated?
  2. What are the mechanisms underlying lineage homeostasis and experience dependent integration of adult-born neurons?
  3. How do properties and connectivity of adult-born neurons causally relate to their encoding and memory functions?
  4. How does adult hippocampal neurogenesis influence hippocampal activity and limbic circuits sub serving mood?
  5. How do our studies on properties and connectivity of dentate granule neurons in rodents inform our thinking of the human brain in health and disease?
  6. What are the molecular mechanisms operational in the hippocampus underlying resilience and vulnerability to stress?

Learn more about the Sahay Lab.

Select Publications

  • Amar Sahay*, Kimberly N. Scobie, Alexis S. Hill, Colin M. O'Carroll, Mazen A. Kheirbek, Nesha S. Burghardt, André A. Fenton, Alex Dranovsky and René Hen*. Increasing adult hippocampal neurogenesis is sufficient to improve pattern separation. Nature 2011; 472 (7344): 466-70. * Co-corresponding author.
  • Taruna Ikrar, Nannan Guo, Kaiwen He, Antoine Besnard, Sally Levinson, Alexis Hill, Hey-Kyoung Lee, Rene Hen, Xiangmin Xu and Amar Sahay. Adult neurogenesis modifies excitability of the dentate gyrus. Frontiers in Neural Circuits 2013, 7:204, 26.
  • Kathleen McAvoy, Kimberly N. Scobie, Stefan Berger, Craig Russo, Nannan Guo, Pakanat Decharatanachart, Hugo-Vega Ramirez, Sam Miake-Lye, Michael Whalen, Mark Nelson, Matteo Bergami, Dusan Bartsch, Rene Hen, Benedikt Berninger and Amar Sahay. Modulating neuronal competition dynamics in the dentate gyrus to rejuvenate aging memory circuits. Neuron 2016; 91(6):1356-1373.
  • Antoine Besnard and Amar Sahay.  Adult hippocampal neurogenesis, fear generalization and stress. Impact of Stress on the Brain: Pathology, Treatment and Prevention. Neuropsychopharmacology 2016; (1):24-44.
  • Tara Raam, Kathleen McAvoy, Antoine Besnard, Alexa Veenema and Amar Sahay. Hippocampal oxytocin receptors are necessary for discrimination of social stimuli. Nature Communications 2017; 8(1): 2001.
  • Kathleen McAvoy and Amar Sahay. Targeting adult neurogenesis to optimize hippocampal circuits in aging. Neurotherapeutics 2017; 14(3):630-645.
  • Nannan Guo, Marta E. Soden, Charlotte Herber, Michael TaeWoo Kim, Antoine Besnard, Paoyan Lin, Xiang Ma, Constance L. Cepko, Larry S. Zweifel and Amar Sahay. Dentate granule cell recruitment of feedforward inhibition governs engram maintenance and remote memory generalization. Nature Medicine (In Press, 2018).

See a complete list of Dr. Sahay's publications


Lab manager
Sally Levinson, BS (PhD program in Neuroscience at NYU)
Tomer Langberg, BS

Research fellows
Nannan Guo, PhD (Fudan University)
Kathleen McAvoy, PhD (University of Rochester)
Antoine Besnard, PhD (INSERM/CNRS/UPMC, Paris)

Graduate students
Tara Raam (Program in Neuroscience)
Hugo Vega-Ramirez (Program in Neuroscience)

Undergraduate students
Shannen Kim (Harvard)
Melissa Boldridge (Harvard)
Sekinat Jumai Yusuf (Harvard)

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