Much of our adult behavior reflects the neural circuits sculpted by experience in infancy and early childhood. At no other time in life does the surrounding environment so potently shape brain function – from basic motor skills, sensation or sleep to higher cognitive processes like language. How this plasticity waxes and wanes with age carries an impact far beyond neuroscience, including education policy, therapeutic approaches to developmental disorders or strategies for recovery from brain injury in adulthood.

Our laboratory, housed in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Center for Brain Science at Harvard University and F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, and part of the NIMH-funded Conte Center at Harvard, explores the mechanisms underlying critical periods of brain development. Research is aimed at the interface between cell biology and neuroscience – applying cellular/molecular techniques to elucidate complex neural systems.

Takao K. Hensch awarded the 2016 Mortimer D. Sackler, M.D. Prize for Distinguished Achievement in Developmental Psychobiology. “How Early Life Experience Shapes Brain Function”

Columbia University Medical Center Press Release
Weill Cornell Press Release

New Treatment for Rett Syndrome Targets Cerebrospinal Fluid“,
by Nicholette Zeliadt, Nov. 15, 2016 SpectrumNews.org features Professor Hensch and his lab while at the 2016 Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting in San Diego


The New York Times: “Return to the Teenage Brain”, by Richard Friedman, October 8, 2016. Photo courtesy of the The New York Times, Harry Campbell

Scientific American features an article by Professor Hensch:
An understanding of formative periods of intense learning during childhood suggests strategies for correcting neurological and psychiatric disorders later in life.
Related Medscape Story:
Harnessing the Childhood Brain to Treat Alzheimer Disease, Autism, and Mental Illness
“Remodeling of retrotransposon elements during epigenetic induction of adult visual cortical plasticity by HDAC inhibitors”
New collaborative study highlighting the importance of chromatin regulation in adult visual cortical plasticity.

Featured in Active Motif January 2016 Epigenetics News.

Originally published in Epigenetics & Chromatin, Dec 2015.

Header based on research image of Luke Bogart, Dawen Cai, Jeff Lichtman & Takao Hensch.