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.

World Science Festival Highlights Takao Hensch in New Video 
MCB faculty Takao Hensch is being featured alongside neuroscientist John Krakauer of Johns Hopkins and neurotechnologist Brett Wingeier of Magnus Medical in a video about neuroplasticity on the World Science Festival’s YouTube channel. 
The video–titled “Rewiring the Brain: The Promise and Peril of Neuroplasticity”– is part of World Science Festival’s project of bringing together noted scientists and artists to create exhibits, live events, and multimedia that communicate scientific concepts to the public. 

“The World Science Festival has attracted some of the world’s leading scientists and artists,” Hensch says. “It was an honor to share recent progress in the field of neuroplasticity to a much broader audience.”

The pursuit of Neurobiology, inspired by her siblings, Olympic Bronze Medalist, Gabby_Thomas, has direct ties with the Boston Children’s Hospital Hensch and Fagiolini Labs. The full story can be found here.

Congratulations to Rebecca Reh, Pietro Artoni and Henry Lee for their contributions to the PNAS journal with their articles and amazing cover shot!! PNAS Cover Photo/Articles

Have you ever wondered why some people hear in color? Here is a press release summarizing a study by CIFAR Child Brain Development co-Director Takao Hensch, Associate Fellow Janet Werker and colleagues. Read their latest paper on the subject at pubmed!

The Hensch lab has the distinct honor  to grace both the front/back cover of the 2019 MCB brochure. We constantly strive for diversity; both in research interests and the people conducting it. Be sure to check out the list of MCB head tutors, advisors, contact info for outreach programs, and more here: MCB_undergraduates_brochure_2019.

The whole world is talking about us! “C’est parti pour le lifting cérébral“, Science & Vie, June 2019, Elsa Abdoun writes about our exciting research over the summer.

“NMDA 2A receptors in parvalbumin cells mediate sex-specific rapid
ketamine response on cortical activity” has just been published by Drs. T. Hensch, N. Picard, A. Takesian, and M. Fagiolini in this month’s edition of Molecular Psychiatry. Read about it in Harvard MCB Department news along with the article.

The Boston Children’s Hospital’s science and clinical innovation blog Vector (February 2019 by Nancy Fliesler), features the new paper titled “NMDA 2A receptors in parvalbumin cells mediate sex-specific rapid ketamine response on cortical activity”.
Read the Vector blog entitled “How the antidepressant ketamine rapidly awakens the brain and why its effects vary more in women

A perineuronal nets image and explaining their role in learning, memory, plasticity, and more can be found in the October PNAS, Core Concepts article titled, ‘Perineuronal nets gain prominence for their role in learning, memory, and plasticity‘, written by Helen H. Shen.

Curious about people who speak dozens of languages and if brain plasticity is involved? Check out the September 2018 edition of  The New Yorker where Professor Takao K. Hensch has some input.  (Judith Thurman The New Yorker staff writer)

“Seizures may damage learning capacity of rodent brains”, by Jessica Wright in the July 2018 edition of Spectrumnews.org features and highlights the latest publication by Sun H, et al. Cell Rep. 23, 2533-2540 (2018)

Takao K. Hensch who spoke at the AAAS in Austin, Texas meeting, lends critical research thinking to The Guardian article, Scientists seek drug to ‘rewire’ adult brain after stroke (Nicola Davis, Feb. 2018).

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.