Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience hires esteemed neuroscientist to conduct critical memory research

The Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience (MPFI) warmly welcomes its newest Research Group Leader Yingxue Wang, PhD. Joining the ranks of MPFI’s distinguished neuroscientists, Dr. Wang will be leading the Neuronal Mechanisms of Episodic Memory research group. While at MPFI, Dr. Wang is interested in studying the brain circuitry that underlies our ability to remember, think and plan or how our brain links our past experiences in the present in order to plan for new experiences in the future.

To investigate these circuits, the Wang Lab will integrate cutting-edge genetic, imaging and electrophysiological approaches with highly advanced computer modeling to reveal the mechanisms by which memories are formed and subsequently stored. In particular the Wang Lab will take a deeper look into the memory of our personal experience, known as episodic memory. Akin to how a video recorder immortalizes moments in time, episodic memory embodies the brain’s ability to capture these individual moments, group them together and store them as an interconnected stream of events; becoming a giant storage file of memories on demand.

Previously, Dr. Wang worked at the Janelia Research Campus of Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where she studied the coordinated, sequential activity patterns generated by the memory center of the brain, the hippocampus, during the course of a memory task. Trained as an electrical engineer, Dr. Wang completed her graduate study under the mentorship of Drs. Shih-Chii Liu, Tobi Delbruck and Rodney Douglas at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ). Her work has been published in high impact journals such as Nature Neuroscience, Hippocampus, eLIFE and Frontiers in Neuroscience, to name just a few.

“Dr. Wang brings with her an impressive and diverse skillset, making a wonderful new addition to our team of accomplished Group Leaders. We are elated that she has chosen Max Planck Florida to call home,” said Dr. David Fitzpatrick, CEO and Scientific Director of MPFI. “The interdisciplinary team of experts under Dr. Wang’s leadership will contribute greatly to the scientific community, helping us understand how memory circuits function, and providing a knowledge base that is critical for our efforts to meet the challenges of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”

“I was drawn to MPFI because of the interactive and collaborative research environment,” said Dr. Wang. “Labs work closely together and the entire staff is extremely supportive. From microscopy to mechanical engineering, MPFI is ready to assist at all stages of the research process so that we can focus on our science – I am grateful to be a member of the MPFI family.”

Dynamically blending together her specialized backgrounds in engineering and neuroscience, Dr. Wang hopes to crack the code of how memories are formed and stored in the brain. Building off her previous work, Dr. Wang is interested in parsing out the underlying brain circuitry that generates the unique activity patterns required for every aspect of memory: encoding, consolidation and recall.  Staying true to her engineering side, Dr. Wang hopes to use the critical knowledge gained from her research to one day design computational systems that emulate the robust and complex computing power native to the human brain; further advancing technology into the future.

“During my doctoral training as an electrical engineer, I designed computational systems to mimic biological circuits in the brain; but the more I researched, the more I became interested in the stunningly complex circuits that endow us with the extraordinary ability to learn throughout our entire lives,” said Dr. Wang. “I look forward to challenging these queries to shed light on how patterns are generated in the brain, and how they can in turn support a lifetime of learning and memory.”

To learn more about the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience, and the cutting-edge research done in the Wang Lab, please visit www.maxplanckflorida.org.