Welcome to the Yu Lab

We are a neuroscience lab at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research. Our aim is to explore and understand sensory systems and the processing of sensory information in the brain. Some specific efforts include investigation of processing of pheromone information, neural development, sensory coding, and innate behavior circuity.

We use a variety of technologies in the lab, including molecular biology, mouse genetics, optical imaging, patch clamp and other electrophysiological recording techniques, as well as mouse behavioral assays to address the following major questions:

  • How are odors or pheromones detected and represented in the brain?
  • What is the neural mechanism that allows the brain to detect, parse and integrate sensory information?
  • What is the neural circuit that allows innate response to sensory input to generate stereotyped behaviors?
  • What is the molecular mechanism underlying the formation of the highly specific neural circuit? How does neural activity alter the neural circuitry?

The sense of smell is as vivid as vision in evoking memories of our past, but many people fail to appreciate this sense until they lose it. For humans, the sense of smell is often viewed as an aesthetic sense, but its decline is often the early sign of neurodegenerate diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. For most animals, olfaction is critical for their survival. When sights and sounds are obscured in a noisy environment, scents are often the only means to discern food and detect predators. Pheromones, on the other hand, evoke mating rituals and territorial aggression which are essential for the propagation of the species.

Studying olfaction will allow us to address some of the questions that are common to all other senses: vision, hearing, touch and taste. Moreover, the powerful genetic tools available in the olfactory system can allow us to dissect the molecular mechanisms of normal and pathological condition in the sensory systems.


1. June 2019

Welcome Summer Scholars!

1. April 2019

Welcome Max Hills, a Bioinformatics Master's student from the University of Oregon.

1. March 2019

Welcome Ai Fang, our new postdoctoral researcher!

24. January 2019

Check out the post at NIH Directors Blog where he writes about our most recent Neuron publication regarding navigator neurons.

15. January 2019

Welcome Hanna Fiedler!

08. December 2018

Qiang's daughter and Santa at the Annual Stowers Holiday Party.

03. November 2018

Six of the lab members leave for SFN and present posters.

26. October 2018

We have identified 'navigator' neurons that are key to setting up connections in the system responsible for the sense of smell! Publication in Neuron.

04. June 2018

Welcome Summer Scholars!

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