Richard W. Tsien, DPhil

Dick TsianDruckenmiller Professor of Neuroscience and Neural Science
Director of the NYU Neuroscience Institute
Chair, Department of Physiology & Neuroscience

450 East 29th Street
Room 929 East River Science Park
New York, NY 10016
Tel: 646-501-4520


Research Summary:

We study neuronal circuits, the signaling mechanisms that underly their plasticity, and the behaviors they generate. For example, we are using a mouse model of human autism to understand how a single amino acid change in a calcium channel can generate all three cardinal features of autism. We already know much about the affected calcium channel, its biophysics, and how it links electrical activity to gene expression, but now seek to relate it to brain events and abnormal behavior.

We are also well-focused in understanding the dynamics of synapses. We study how vesicles choose between distinct modes of fusion, using optical approaches to probe single fusion events. Activity-dependent modifications in synaptic strength within canonical cortical circuits – feed-forward or highly recurrent, evoked by the neuropeptide oxytocin or by network silencing -- offer insights into how key functions of circuits can be precisely retuned.

We have also recorded from brain cells derived from fibroblasts, and through excellent collaborations, will study small bits of brain excised from patients. The goal is to investigate the malleability of braincircuits in a human context.

Selected Publications:

  • Bader PL Faizi M, Kim LH, Owen SF, Tadross MR, Alfa RW, Bett GCL, Tsien RW, Rasmusson RL, Shamloo M (2011). Mouse model of Timothy syndrome recapitulates triad of autistic traits. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 108(37):15432-7.

  • Mitra A, Mitra SS, Tsien RW. (2011) Heterogeneous reallocation of presynaptic efficacy in recurrent excitatory microcircuits adapting to inactivity.Nature Neurosci. 15(2):250-7.

  • Park H, Li Y, Tsien RW (2012). Influence of synaptic vesicle position on release probability and exocytotic fusion mode. Science. 335(6074):1362-6.

  • Wheeler DG, Groth RD, Ma H, Barrett CF, Owen SF, Safa P, Tsien RW (2012). Specific calcium channeltypes engage different modes of Ca2+ signaling to control CREB phosphorylation and gene expression. Cell. 149(5):1112-24.

  • *Yoo AS, *Sun AX, *Li L, *Shcheglovitov A, Portmann T, Li Y, Lee-Messer C, Dolmetsch RE, Tsien RW, Crabtree GR (2011). MicroRNA-mediated conversion of human fibroblasts to neurons. Nature. 476(7359):228-31. (*, co-first authors).

Research Image: