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Yuchin Albert Pan, Ph.D.

Yuchin Albert Pan, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund Eminent Research Scholar in Developmental Neuroscience

Yuchin Albert Pan, Ph.D. headshot

“Because people and fish share similarities in brain structure and genes, this simple organism provides us with an extraordinary window to understand the common neural pathway and brain activity patterns.”

Visualizing neural networks to understand disease

What can the zebrafish brain teach us about human brain development?

The Pan lab uses zebrafish as the tool to discover the general principles of vertebrate nervous system development. These general principles will help us understand and identify novel treatment options for human neuropsychiatric disorders.

During development, neurons establish connections with each other called synapses to form functional neural circuits. Assembly of these circuits is essential for normal behavior and neuropsychiatric diseases. But the immense structural complexity of the human brain – with 80 billion neurons and trillions of synapses – makes studying developmental mechanisms and connectivity a challenge. The optically translucent Zebrafish brain, with about 100,000 neurons in the larvae, is a useful model. More than 70 percent of human disease genes have functional homologs in zebrafish, making it possible to model human mutations in this more accessible system

Using zebrafish, the Pan lab has (1) identified potential causes of saccade failure, characterized by the loss of fast eye movements (Ma et al. Journal of Neuroscience 2020), (2) uncovered the molecular mechanisms for craniofacial deficits in undiagnosed human disease (Ates et al. Disease Models and Mechanisms 2020), and (3) developed new viral vector-based tools for visualizing novel neural connectivity patterns (Ma, Kler, et al. Frontiers in Neural Circuits 2020).

The current focus of the lab is on how intercellular signaling affects the organism’s response to stressors, and how genetic deficiencies may contribute to diseases such as epilepsy and stress-associated disorders such as anxiety and depression.

  • Associate Professor and Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund Eminent Research Scholar in Developmental Neuroscience
  • Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, School of Medicine

Ma M, Ramirez AD, Wang T, Roberts RL, Harmon KE, Schoppik D, Sharma A, Kuang C, Goei SL, Gagnon JA, Zimmerman S, Tsai SQ, Reyon D, Joung JK, Aksay ERF, Schier AF, Pan YA. Zebrafish dscaml1 Deficiency Impairs Retinal Patterning and Oculomotor Function. J Neurosci. 2020;40(1):143-58. Epub 2019/11/07. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1783-19.2019. PMCID: PMC6939486.

Ates KM, Wang T, Moreland T, Veeranan-Karmegam R, Ma M, Jeter C, Anand P, Wenzel W, Kim HG, Wolfe LA, Stephen J, Adams DR, Markello T, Tifft CJ, Settlage R, Gahl WA, Gonsalvez GB, Malicdan MC, Flanagan-Steet H, Pan YA. Deficiency in the endocytic adaptor proteins PHETA1/2 impairs renal and craniofacial development. Disease Models & Mechanisms. 2020;13(5). Epub 2020/03/11. doi: 10.1242/dmm.041913.

Ma M, Kler S, Pan YA. Structural Neural Connectivity Analysis in Zebrafish With Restricted Anterograde Transneuronal Viral Labeling and Quantitative Brain Mapping. Frontiers in Neural Circuits. 2019;13(85):85. Epub 2020/02/11. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2019.00085. PMCID: PMC6989443.

  • 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
  • Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis: Ph.D., Neural Development
  • National Taiwan University: B.S., Zoology
  • 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
  • Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards for Individual Predoctoral Fellow, 2004
  • Honorable Mention, National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, 2001


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