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Laboratory Introduction

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Date 2020-02-11

Neuropharmacology Laboratory
Areas of Research
1. Discovery of bioactive components from traditional medicine and drug development against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
2. Neurotoxicity in drug abuse and development of potential therapeutic drugs .
The Neuropharmacology Laboratory is a team of dedicated professionals with years of experience in myriad disciplines conducting animal behavioral, neurochemical, histochemical, electrophysiological, cellular and molecular studies of alternative medicine and development of novel synthetic compounds in protection and treatment of CNS injury and neuronal degenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Since drug discovery, particularly related to neurodegenerative diseases, is far too complex to tackle, our laboratory collaborations indeed include design and synthesis of new agents for specific interesting activity or targets with chemists.
 Current laboratory approaches to discover the isolated constituents from herbs and develop the novel drugs for treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. To build a comprehensive understanding of animal models of neurological disorders in tandem with molecular and cellular biology techniques, we have established efficient biochemical, cellular, molecular, and animal behavioral tests to investigate the pharmacological functions of herbs, extracted constituents, and novel synthetic agents in prevention and restoration of neuronal damage and animal behavioral dysfunction in neurodegenerative disorders. The performances in animal behaviors include beam walking, rotarod, rotation, social interaction, cognition, learning and memory, etc. Additionally, we will compare the efficacies and potencies of the novel drug candidates from evaluation of genetic or molecular targets and pharmacological activities in neuronal protection and treatment of neuronal damage and neurodegenerative diseases. The results will lay a foundation for clinical trials and aid future chemical modification to develop more optimal molecular structure and clinically feasible therapeutic strategies to benefit patients with neurodegenerative disorders.
 Our other projects are focusing on the behavioral and neurotoxic effects of abused drugs such as methamphetamine, ketamine, and toluene. These studies explore the neurotoxicological effects and delineate the relationship between the chemical lesions and overt behavioral manifestations. In these projects, we plan to explore induction of neurotrophic factor production as a therapeutic strategy for treatment of abused drugs-associated neurotoxicity and neuropsychological impairments.  

Behavioral Neuroscience Laboratory
    The behavioral neuroscience laboratory held by Professor Ruey-Ming Liao mainly investigates the cognitive/behavioral function of brain dopamine.  Behavioral function of the living individual is derived from physiological reflex, and which can be constructed the conditioned response to specific stimulus cue via certain type of association learning process.  Accordingly, the basic behavior with approach vs. avoidance is developed for the individual to explore in the environment.  In considering the existence of unpredicted condition and uncertainty in the nature, the subject would transfer the conditioned responses into goal-directed behavior via certain “cognitive” information processing such as reinforcement learning.  Following this theoretical thinking from behavioral/psychological perspective, this laboratory has established at eight behavioral tasks of rodent animal model:
(1) licking behavior
(2) reward contrast including successive negative contrast and anticipatory contrast
(3) conditioned place preference
(4) instrumental/operant conditioned behavior (on FR, FI and DRL schedule of reinforcement)
(5) radial arm maze
(6) elevated plus maze
(7) run-climb-run choice behavior
(8) probabilistic risky choice behavior
    The dopamine-related neural mechanisms of behavior containing motivation, emotion, learning and/or memory components have been intriguingly examined by the use of behavioral tasks along with neurotoxic lesion, neuropharmacological, and immunohistochemical methods.  The research work in this lab continues parsing behavioral components by jointly applying the techniques and theories from cellulo- molecular biology and cognitive neuroscience.  Via the integrative approach, this lab aims to seek a breakthrough for behavioral neuroscience to delve how the brain and mind work in dynamic.

Neuroalplasticity   Laboratory
  The major research interest in our laboratory is to study the neuroprotection and regeneration by a combination of various approaches including molecular cell biology, neurophysiology and locomotor behavior.
The neurodegenerative Parkinson's disease is mainly caused by the degeneration of dopamine (DA) neurons which project from the substantia nigra to the striatum. By using an experimental animal model, we found that the neuroprotective effects of Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) on DA neurons are through enhancing intracellular antioxidant systems and cell adhesion molecule expressions to promote the neuron survival and improve the motor function in rats. We also confirmed that the protein kinase CK2-mediated cell signaling involved in these neuroprotective effects. Our further studies showed that the protein kinase CK2 enhances the neuronal survival via promoting cell anti-apoptotic mechanisms.
The related detailed cellular mechanisms and other neurophysiological function of CK2 are still under investigation. Beside those, we also found that CK2 involved in the mechanisms of learning and memory formation in mammalian animals.In recent years, many studies have indicated that protein kinase CK2 is one of potential candidates involves in the neuronal function of nervous system. We suggest our studies might be applied to the clinical therapies for motor-deficiency or dementia-related degenerative diseases.

Laboratory of Neural Development and Behavior
PI: Wenlin Liao ,Ph.D.
     The general interest of the lab is to understand the neural basis of developmental and behavioral disorders. By using molecular, histological, physiological and behavioral analyses on mouse models of diseases, we are trying to reveal the neural substrates underlying pathogenesis of Autism and Rett Syndrome. Currently our main projects are investigating the roles of methyl-CpG binding protein 2 and cyclin-dependent kinase-like 5 in psychomotor control of normal or diseased brains. Possible therapeutics by genetic, pharmacological or bioelectrical approaches are also ongoing tested in mice. For more information, please visit the lab website:

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