Jing Ren

Jing Ren

Developmental assembly of the serotonin system


Jing will join the LMB on the 1st January 2020

It is possible that the serotonin in our brains play an essential part in keeping us sane

Sir John Gaddum, 1954

The serotonin (5HT) system is believed to be the most expansive neural system, innervating nearly every area of the brain and has been implicated in the modulation of seemingly every human behavior. It is the most frequently targeted neural system pharmacologically for treating psychiatric disorders, including depression and anxiety.

Jing Ren image 1
DR: the dorsal raphe serotonin system, contains the largest number of serotonin neurons and is the main source of serotonin for the forebrain.

Strikingly, despite its imposing breadth of influence, the serotonin system originates from a very small proportion of neurons, which constitute only 1/1000000 of all CNS neurons. The key questions that intrigue us are, how is the serotonin system organized to manage such a broad range of modulation? How is the organization of the serotonin system determined during development, and how do disruptions in these developmental programs alter this organization, and thereby possibly contribute to the pathology?

We recently revealed that there are anatomically defined parallel serotonin sub-systems that exert different influences on distinct behavioural functions of mice. We are trying to determine how individual serotonin sub-system reaches their particular target brain regions during development in mice. We shall identify the molecules that guide the neural circuit formation. After that, we shall combine multiple advanced tools to understand when some of the serotonin sub-systems fail to connect with their downstream brain regions: which aspects of the mental states are disrupted. This work will advance our understanding of the relationship between neurodevelopment and psychiatric disorders, with the potential of discovering novel targets for therapeutic interventions.

Selected Papers

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