Lab Members

Takao K. Hensch
Professor, Molecular & Cellular Biology
Professor, Neurology (Children’s Hospital)
Center for Brain Science
Harvard University

Takao K. Hensch, PhD, is joint professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School at Boston Children’s Hospital, and professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard’s Center for Brain Science. After undergraduate studies with Dr. J Allan Hobson at Harvard, he was a student of Dr. Masao Ito at the University Tokyo (MPH) and a Fulbright fellow with Dr. Wolf Singer at the Max-Planck Institute for Brain Research, before receiving a PhD in neuroscience working with Dr. Michael Stryker at the University of California, San Francisco in 1996. He then helped to launch the RIKEN Brain Science Institute as lab head for neuronal circuit development and served as group director (and now special advisor) before returning to the United States in 2006. Professor Hensch has received several honors, including the Society for Neuroscience Young Investigator Award in both Japan (2001 Tsukahara Prize) and the United States (2005), as well as an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award (2007). He currently directs the NIMH Silvio O. Conte Center for Basic Mental Health Research at Harvard. He serves on the editorial board of various journals, including Journal of Neuroscience, Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Neural Development, Neuroscience Research, Frontiers in Neural Circuits, and Neuron.Professor Hensch’s research focuses on critical periods in brain development. By applying cellular and molecular biology techniques to neural systems, his lab identified pivotal inhibitory circuits that orchestrate structural and functional rewiring of connections in response to early sensory experience. His work affects not only the basic understanding of brain development, but also therapeutic approaches to devastating cognitive disorders later in life.

Prof. Hensch’s Molecular and Cellular Biology Profile >>
Prof. Hensch’s Conte Center Profile >>

Haneui Bae

Graduate Student, Molecules, Cells and Organisms Program

Haneui is interested in the role of specialized extracellular matrix structures called perineuronal nets in regulating critical period plasticity. Perineuronal nets form mainly around parvalbumin-expressing interneurons, whose maturation triggers the onset and closing of critical periods. Haneui received her bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from Amherst College and studied the development of Drosophila larvae neuromuscular junctions in the lab of Dr. Ethan Graf.


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Gervasio Batista
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology

Gervasio is interested in uncovering the molecular mechanisms controlling the organization of social behaviors during critical period. Combining multi-tracking algorithms and genetic tools he investigates the consequences of early life experience on social interactions within complex environments. Gervasio obtained his PhD from Albert Einstein College of Medicine where he studied the translational control of imprinting in chickens in the laboratory of Prof. Jose Peña.


Maddalena Delma Caiati
Research Associate, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Delma’s research focuses on the investigation of the circuit operations involved in experience dependent plasticity, during critical periods of brain development characterized by heightened neuroplasticity. Using electrophysiological, optical and genetic tools her aim is to reverse engineer the cortical and thalamocortical dynamics underlying critical period of plasticity in physiological conditions and in neurodevelopmental disorders. Delma graduated in Medicine at Universita’ degli Studi di Bari, Italy and obtained her PhD in Neurobiology working with Prof. Enrico Cherubini, at International School for Advanced Studies, Trieste, Italy.



Nate Hodgson

Postdoctoral Fellow, F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center at Boston Children’s Hospital
Nate’s research is focused on the role of oxidative stress and redoxbuffering in neurological disorders. Currently he is studying the regulation of perineuronal net formation by Otx2 and how perineuronal nets impact the metabolism of thiol-containing amino acids and glutathione  in parvalbumin-positive interneurons.  Nate received his BS in biochemistry and molecular biology from Gettysburg College and his PhD in pharmacology from Northeastern University, where he worked with Prof. Richard Deth.




Carolyn Johnson
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Carolyn is interested in the developmental maturation of neural circuits for decision-making. She uses two-photon imaging of awake behaving animals along with electrophysiology and genetic techniques. Carolyn received a BA from Bowdoin College and a PhD in Neuroscience from UCSF where she worked with Prof. Linda Wilbrecht.





Hing Cheong (Henry) Lee
Postdoctoral Fellow, F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center at Boston Children’s Hospital

Henry aims to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying brain plasticity and neuronal inhibition. Combining molecular biology and electrophysiology techniques, Henry deciphered a choroid plexus-derived, extracellular matrix-mediated Otx2 signaling mechanism for cortical plasticity control. He also collaborated with investigators at Boston Children’s Hospital on translational research on traumatic brain injury and axon regeneration. Henry’s recent work has been focusing on neural mechanisms on gamma oscillations and critical period plasticity. Henry received his BSc and MPhil from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), and a PhD from University College London (UCL), where he studied phospho-regulation of KCC2 in the laboratory of Prof. Stephen Moss.




Yuichi Makino
Research Associate, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Yuichi is interested in the developmental regulation of higher brain functions, such as emotion, learning and memory. With a combination of behavioral experiments and electrophysiology in freely behaving animals, he is investigating the development of the network. Before joining the lab, he performed his PhD study in Neuroscience with Dr. Richard Huganir at Johns Hopkins University and postdoctoral research with Dr. Thomas McHugh at RIKEN.




Nathalie Picard
Postdoctoral Fellow, F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center at Boston Children’s Hospital
Nathalie is interested in understanding the cellular mechanisms involved in cortical development in normal condition and in cognitive disorders and in translating this knowledge into better treatments for neurological disorders. She obtained a master in Biochemistry at the University of Denis Diderot (Paris, France) and her PhD in Neuroscience at the Medical School Amiens (France). During her PhD, she investigated the effects of prenatal drug exposure on the neuronal network controlling the respiratory function to identify factors leading to respiratory disorders such as Sudden Infant Death.


Rashmi Sarnaik
Postdoctoral Fellow, F.M. Kirby
Neurobiology Center at Boston Children’s Hospital
Rashmi is interested in understanding how genetic abnormalities and environmental stressors in early life impact organization and function of neuronal circuits. Using electrophysiology, optogenetics, behavioral assays and computational tools she investigates long-range circuits between the cerebellum and the prefrontal cortex during development and in disease. Rashmi received her Ph.D. at Northwestern University studying organization and function of visual receptive fields in Dr. Jianhua Cang’s laboratory. During her postdoctoral tenure in Dr. Indira Raman’s laboratory at Northwestern, she investigated the effect of cerebellar output patterns on locomotion in mice.

Geoffrey Vargish
Postdoctural Fellow, F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center at Boston Children’s Hospital
Geoffrey is interested in understanding the role of inhibitory circuitry in critical period plasticity. Using a multimodal approach, Geoffrey aims to explore presynaptic inputs to parvalbumin-expressing interneurons, examining the maturation of these circuits and their contribution to cellular and network function. Geoffrey received a BS in Neurobiology from the University of Miami and an MPH from Drexel University before obtaining his PhD from Brown University, where he worked in the lab of Chris McBain at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as part of the Brown-NIH graduate partnership program.




Rachel Woo
Research Assistant, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Rachel is interested in the role of critical period plasticity in development. Rachel obtained her bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from Wellesley College where she worked with Prof. Sharon Gobes studying the balance between excitation and inhibition in zebra finches.