Explore This Lab


The incidence and complexity of mental illnesses and cognitive impairments associated with aging and Alzheimer’s disease underscores the need to develop novel treatments. The Laboratory of Neural Plasticity and Function at Massachusetts General Hospital’s mission 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 opto-genetics, 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:

  • How are neural stem cell activation-quiescence decisions physiologically regulated?
  • What are the mechanisms underlying lineage homeostasis and experience dependent integration of adult-born neurons?
  • How do properties and connectivity of adult-born neurons causally relate to their encoding and memory functions?
  • How does adult hippocampal neurogenesis influence hippocampal activity and limbic circuits sub serving mood?
  • 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?
  • What are the molecular mechanisms operational in the hippocampus underlying resilience and vulnerability to stress?

Lab Members

Amar Sahay, PhD, 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 Harvard and MIT

Antoine Besnard, PhD, Postdoctoral fellow, NARSAD YI Awardee

Nannan Guo, PhD, Postdoctoral fellow

Kathleen McAvoy, PhD, Postdoctoral fellow

Cinzia Vicidomini, PhD, Postdoctoral fellow, NARSAD YI Awardee

Hannah Twarkowski, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow

Tara Raam, BS, Graduate Student (Neuroscience)

Hugo Vega-Ramirez, BS, Graduate Student (Neuroscience, HHMI Gilliam Fellow)

Michael Kim, BS, Lab tech/Manager

See Team Bios and Alumni

Research Positions

For research opportunities please contact Dr. Amar Sahay.