The interplay between motor cortex, sensory cortex, thalamus and basal ganglia is essential for neural computations involved in generating voluntary movements.  Our goal is to dissect the functional organization of motor circuits, particularly cortico-thalamo-basal ganglia networks, using electrophysiology, 2-photon microscopy, optogenetics, and genetic tools.

The long-term scientific goal of the Ding Lab is to construct functional circuit diagrams and establish causal relationships between activity in specific groups of neurons, circuit function, animal motor behavior and motor learing, and, thereby, to decipher how the basal ganglia process information and guide motor behavior.  We will achieve this by investigating the synaptic organization and function that involve the cortex, thalamus and basal ganglia at the molecular, cellular and circuit level.

Currently, we are focusing on several questions:

  • How are excitatory inputs integrated in the striatum?
  • How do feed-forward and recurrent local inhibitions balance the excitation in the striatum?
  • How are functional maps modulated in motor behavior and learning?

Our goal is to bridge the gap between molecular or cellular events and the circuit mechanisms that underlie motor behavior.  In addition, we aim to further help construct the details of psychomotor disorder 'circuit diagrams,' such as changes in Parkinson's disease, drug abuse and addiction.

Teaching Courses


NSUR 262: Advances in Two-Photon Imaging of Neural Circuits (4 units)


Stanford Intensive Neuroscience Boot Camp (6 units)


BIO 204: Neuroplasticity: From Synapses to Behavior (3 units)


BIOS 232: Mini Course “Two-photon Imaging of Neural Circuits” (2 units)