Liqun Luo

Stanford University

Primary Section: 24, Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Secondary Section: 28, Systems Neuroscience
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2012)


Dr. Luo grew up in Shanghai, China, and earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Science and Technology of China.  After obtaining his PhD in Brandeis University, and postdoctoral training at the UCSF, Dr. Luo started his own lab in the Department of Biology, Stanford University in December 1996.  Together with his students and postdoctoral fellows, Dr. Luo studies how neural circuits are organized to perform specific functions in adults, and how they are assembled during development.  Dr. Luo is currently the Ann and Bill Swindells Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, Professor of Biology, and Professor of Neurobiology by courtesy at Stanford University, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.  He teaches neurobiology to Stanford undergraduate and graduate students.  His single-author textbook “Principles of Neurobiology” (1st edition 2015; 2nd edition 2020) is widely used for undergraduate and graduate courses across the world.

Research Interests

The human brain contains ~ 1011 neurons, each making >103 synapses with other neurons on average. These 1014 synaptic connections enable us to sense, think, remember, and act. How is this vast number of neurons organized into circuits to process information? How are these circuits correctly assembled during development? Dr. Luo uses model neural circuits in the less numerically complex brains of the fruit fly (~105 neurons) and mouse (~108 neurons) and combine state-of-the-art molecular genetic and viral techniques with physiological and behavioral approaches to investigate these questions.     Over the past two decades, Dr. Luo and his colleagues have developed genetic tools to label and genetically manipulate individual or groups of neurons in flies and mice, which have facilitated our interrogation of mechanisms of neuronal morphogenesis, axon pruning, and wiring specificity of neural circuits during development. More recently, they have investigated anatomical organization and functional properties of neural circuits in adult animals. Specific projects Dr. Luo and his students and postdocs are currently pursuing include: (1) assembly of the fly olfactory circuit; (2) genetic analysis of neural development in the mouse; (3) organization and function of neural circuits in the mouse; (4) development of tools to probe neural circuit assembly and function.

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