Neuroscience Program Faculty

Yunlei Yang, MD, PhD

Yunlei Yang, MD, PhD
Appointed 08/13/12
3705 Institute For Human Performance (IHP)
505 Irving Ave.
Syracuse, NY 13210

315 464-7733

Current Appointments

Hospital Campus

  • Downtown

Research Programs and Affiliations

  • Biomedical Sciences Program
  • Neuroscience Program
  • Neuroscience and Physiology

Research Interests

  • Deciphering and manipulating cellular, synaptic, and circuit mechanisms governing feeding and anxiety-related behavior with genetic and system neuroscience approaches


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The focus of Dr. Yang's research is on dissecting and manipulating intracellular and intercellular signaling circuits governing feeding and anxiety-related behaviors in normal and obese animals using genetic and systems neuroscience approaches that include cell-type-specific electrophysiology, optogenetics, chemical-genetics, deep-brain measurements of neurochemicals, imaging, and behavior assays. One of the projects in Dr. Yang's laboratory is about synaptic and circuit rewiring in obesity. Obesity and its associated pathologies impose a huge burden to our society. Obesity may increase the risks of many other complications, such as type 2 diabetes and psychological disorders including anxiety. However, the mechanisms and the effective treatments of obesity and the associated disorders are largely unknown. It thus is critical to determine the cellular, synaptic, and circuit mechanism(s) underlying feeding and anxiety, providing apparent therapeutic target(s) for the treatment of obesity, eating disorders, and anxiety.


In addition to neuronal regulations of energy states and anxiety, Dr. Yang is also interested in studying the roles played by astrocytes in these regulations in both normal and abnormal conditions, including obesity and anxiety disorders.


Selected Publications

Sweeney P1, O'Hara K1, Xu Z, Yang Y*. HFD-induced energy states-dependent bidirectional control of anxiety levels in mice. Int J Obes (Nature press; London). 2017. In print. 1. co-first authors.

Sweeney P, Yang Y*. Neural circuit mechanisms underlying emotional regulation of homeostatic feeding. Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2017 June; 6(28):437-448. PMID:28279562.

Sweeney P, Yang Y*. An Inhibitory Septum to Lateral Hypothalamus Circuit That Suppresses Feeding. J Neurosci. 2016 Nov 2;36(44):11185-11195. PMID:27807162 Featured Article

Sweeney P, Qi Y, Xu Z, Yang Y*. Activation of hypothalamic astrocytes suppresses feeding without altering emotional states. Glia. 2016 Dec. 64(12):2263-2273. doi: 10.1002/glia.23073. PMID:27658520

Sweeney P, Levack R, Watters J, Xu Z, Yang Y*. Caffeine increases food intake while reducing anxiety-related behaviors. Appetite. 2016 Jun 1;101:171-7. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.03.013. Epub 2016 Mar 10.PMID:26972351

Sweeney P, Yang Y*. An excitatory ventral hippocampus to lateral septum circuit that suppresses feeding. Nat Commun. 2015 Dec 15;6:10188. doi: 10.1038/ncomms10188.PMID:26666960 Featured by Faculty 1000Prime:

Qi Y, Yang Y*. Hunger States Control the Directions of Synaptic Plasticity via Switching Cell Type-Specific Subunits of NMDA Receptors. J Neurosci. 2015 Sep 23;35(38):13171-82. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0855-15.2015.PMID:26400946

Yang L, Qi Y, Yang Y*. Astrocytes control food intake by inhibiting AGRP neuron activity via adenosine A1 receptors. Cell Rep. 2015 May 5;11(5):798-807. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2015.04.002. Epub 2015 Apr 23.PMID:25921535 Comment in: Regulation of orexigenic AgRP neurons: A third way? [Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2015] Commentary in Cell Press: Featured in World Biomedical Frontiers:

Yang Y, Lee P, Sternson SM. Cell type-specific pharmacology of NMDA receptors using masked MK801. Elife. 2015 Sep 11;4. doi: 10.7554/eLife.10206.PMID:26359633.

Tian L, Yang Y, Wysocki LM, Arnold AC, Hu A, Ravichandran B, Sternson SM, Looger LL, Lavis LD. Selective esterase-ester pair for targeting small molecules with cellular specificity. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Mar 27;109(13):4756-61. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1111943109. Epub 2012 Mar 12.PMID:22411832 Featured in Faculty of 1000 Biology

Yang Y, Atasoy D, Su HH, Sternson SM. Hunger states switch a flip-flop memory circuit via a synaptic AMPK-dependent positive feedback loop. Cell. 2011 Sep 16;146(6):992-1003. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2011.07.039.PMID:21925320 Previewed in Cell, and Cell Metabolism; Highlighted in "Editor Choice" in Science Signaling and Featured in Faculty of 1000 Biology

Yang Y*, Wang XB, Zhou Q*. Perisynaptic GluR2-lacking AMPA receptors control the reversibility of synaptic and spines modifications. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Jun 29;107(26):11999-2004. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0913004107. Epub 2010 Jun 14.PMID:20547835

Yang Y, Zhou Q. Spine modifications associated with long-term potentiation. Neuroscientist. 2009 Oct;15(5):464-76. doi: 10.1177/1073858409340800. Review.PMID:19826170 (invited review)

Yang Y, Wang XB, Frerking M, Zhou Q. Delivery of AMPA receptors to perisynaptic sites precedes the full expression of long-term potentiation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Aug 12;105(32):11388-93. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0802978105. Epub 2008 Aug 5.PMID:18682558Featured by Faculty of 1000 Biology



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Additional Collaborators

  • Paul Gold, PhDExternal Icon
    Professor, Biology (Syracuse University)
    Research Interests: Aging, Cell Signaling and Communication, Learning, Memory, and Plasticity, Neurological and Psychiatric Conditions.
  • James Hewett, PhDExternal Icon
    Associate Professor, Biology (Syracuse University)
    Research Interests: Neuroscience and Central Nervous System Neurobiology and Pathology: Neuromodulators and Epilepsy: Arachidonic Acid Metabolism and Cyclooxygenase-2: Cytokines and Interleukin-1beta: Signal Transduction and Gene Expression.
  • Sandra Hewett, PhDExternal Icon
    Professor, Neuroscience, Biology (Syracuse University)
    Research Interests: Mechanisms underlying cell death in the central nervous system: the interplay between excitotoxicity and inflammation.
  • Donna Korol, PhDExternal Icon
    Associate Professor, Biology (Syracuse University)
    Research Interests: Neural mechanisms of learning and memory across the lifespan.
  • Katharine (Kate) Lewis, PhDExternal Icon
    Associate Professor, Biology (Syracuse University)
    Research Interests: Specification and patterning of spinal cord interneurons; Formation of functional neuronal circuitry; Evolution of spinal cord patterning and function; Dorsal-ventral neural tube patterning; zebrafish development.