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Dissecting the Dorsal Raphe Circuit for Reward Processing
Prof. LUO Minmin, Professor of Life Sciences, Tsinghua University; Investigator of National Institute of Biological Sciences, Beijing
Date : 6 Sep 2019 (Friday)
Time : 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Venue : Padma and Hari Harilela Lecture Theater (LT-C), HKUST


Reward motivates animal behaviors, produces the feelings of pleasure, and guides learning and memory formation. The brain reward system - a group of interconnected brain structures - participates in various aspects of reward processing and its malfunctions are associated with numerous psychiatric disorders. Although dopamine neurons in the midbrain ventral tegmental area (VTA) receive much focus, whether and how neurons in the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) contribute to reward processing remain controversial. The DRN represents the major source of serotonin in the forebrain and contains also glutamate, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and dopamine neurons. The speaker will summarize recent evidences indicating that the DRN contributes to reward processing in a cell type-specific manner. First, he will present optogenetic studies indicating that DRN neurons produce reward signals through the release of serotonin and glutamate. Second, physiological recordings reveal that DRN serotonin neurons positively encode a wide range of reward signals and drugs of abuse that are associated with pleasure. His research team’s recordings suggest that DRN serotonin neurons encode beneficialness signals and may be important for reward belief. The beneficialness model of serotonin contrasts with VTA dopamine neurons that encode reward prediction error and crucially organize reward seeking and reinforcement learning. Finally, the speaker will present some new data indicating that DRN dopamine neurons encode saliency and play an important role in memory expression. Therefore, the DRN contributes to various aspects of reward processing through different neuron types associated with distinct neurotransmitter phenotypes.


About the speaker

Prof. Luo Minmin received his MS in Computer Science and PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997 and 2000 respectively. After completing the postdoctoral training at Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Duke University, he returned to China and joined the Institute of Neuroscience in the Chinese Academy of Sciences as an Investigator and Laboratory Head in 2004. In 2005, he moved to the National Institute of Biological Sciences in Beijing and is currently an Investigator and Laboratory Head there. He has also been a Professor in the School of Life Sciences at Tsinghua University since 2009.

Prof. Luo’s research interest is to elucidate how neural circuit processes reward and punishment signals. He particularly focuses on the functions and mechanisms of the brain 5-HT neurons in the dorsal raphe and the neural pathway from the medial habenula to the interpeduncular nucleus. His laboratory uses integrative approaches including electrophysiology, optical imaging and optogenetics, molecular genetics, and behavioral assays, and aims to revealing the role of the associated neural circuit at the molecular, cellular, physiological, and circuit levels. He is the Section Editor of Science China Life Sciences, the Associate Editor of Brain and Behavior, and the Editorial Board Member of Neuron, the Journal of Neuroscience Methods and Frontiers in Neural Circuits.

Prof. Luo was awarded the China Youth Science and Technology Award and the WuXi PharmaTech Life Science and Chemistry Award in 2011, the Wu Jieping-Paul Jansen Prize in Medicine in 2016 and the Tan Jiazhen Life Science Innovation Award in 2017. Since 2012, he has been a Council Member of the Chinese Neuroscience Society.

For attendees’ attention


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HKUST Jockey Club Institute for Advanced Study
Enquiries: ias@ust.hk / 2358 5912