The University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Geng-Lin Li

Assistant Professor

Our research focuses on how neural signals are conveyed from one neuron to another through synapses, a specialized structure between a pair of neurons. Our research group takes a multidisciplinary approach combining electrophysiology, UV-light uncaging of caged compounds and two-photon imaging techniques, to address some fundamental questions of synaptic transmission and how it shapes neural signal encoding and decoding.

Current Research
One of his current projects takes advantage of a unique synapse between hair cells and auditory nerve fibers in bullfrog amphibian papilla. By making direct patch-clamp recording on both sides of the synapse in vitro, he was able to stimulate the synapse in the same way as it receives from sound stimulation in vivo. His latest results suggest that hair cells release synaptic vesicles in a cooperated manner, which helps the synapse achieve enough of temporal precision for sound localization.

Through collaboration with Dr. Heather Richardson in Psychology, he is expanding to a new research territory in the prefrontal cortex. In this project, he is taking advantage of a clinically relevant and innovative rat model for “Binge” Alcohol Drinking during adolescence, and studying morphological and functional alterations of synapses in the prefrontal cortex following binge drinking. This line of research will advance our understanding of the brain function deficits among binge drinking teenagers and provide directions for therapeutic interventions.

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Academic Background

  • BS Beijing Normal University, 1998
  • PhD Chinese Academy of Sciences, 2004
  • Postdoctoral Training: Vollum Institute, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon, 2004 – 2009
  • Research Assistant Professor, Vollum Institute, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon, 2009 - 2011
Kim, M.H., Li, G.L., and von Gersdorff, H. 2013 . Single Ca2+ channels and exocytosis at sensory synapses. Journal of Physiology, 591: 3167-78.
Graydon, C.W., Cho, S., Li, G.L., Kachar, B., and von Gersdorff, H. 2011. Sharp Ca2+ nanodomains beneath the ribbon promote highly synchronous multivesicular release at hair cell synapses. Journal of Neuroscience, 31: 16637-50.
Cho, S., Li, G.L., and von Gersdorff, H. 2011. Recovery from short-term depression and facilitation is ultrafast and Ca2+-dependent at auditory hair cell synapses. Journal of Neuroscience, 31: 5682-92.
Li, G.L., Keen, E., Andor-Ardó, D., Hudspeth, A.J., and von Gersdorff, H. 2009. The unitary event underlying multiquantal EPSCs at a hair cell's ribbon synapse. Journal of Neuroscience, 29: 7558-68.
Li, G.L., Vigh, J., and von Gersdorff, H. 2007. Short-term depression at the reciprocal synapses between a retinal bipolar cell terminal and amacrine cells. Journal of Neuroscience, 27: 7377-85.
Contact Info

Department of Biology
311A Morrill III South
North Pleasant Street
Amherst, MA 01003-9292

(413) 545-6044