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Dr LAI, Cora Sau Wan 賴秀芸

Dr LAI, Cora Sau Wan 賴秀芸

  • BSc, PhD (HKU)
  • Assistant Professor
L4-46, Laboratory Block, 21 Sassoon Road, Hong Kong
+852 3917 9266
+852 2855 9730
  • Synaptic plasticity in learning and memory

Dr. Cora Lai is currently an Assistant Professor in the School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Hong Kong. She obtained her bachelor and doctoral degrees at HKU. In 2009, she joined the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine in the Langone NYU Medical Center (New York, USA) for postdoctoral training. At NYU, she worked on intravital imaging of the mouse central nervous system in learning and memory, particularly in studying synaptic plasticity in fear associative learning.

One of the major goals of neuroscience is to understand how the brain integrates, processes and stores a wide range of information to modify behaviour. The ability to associate different information and environmental stimuli is one of the key factors for associative learning. However, it is still unclear how neural circuits integrate convergence signals during learning. Auditory fear conditioning is an associative learning paradigm that can serve as an ideal model to study the basic mechanisms of associative learning at the behavioural, circuitry, and molecular levels.

We use in vivo imaging, optogentics, chemogenetics, genetic manipulations, and behavioural approaches to understand synaptic plasticity, neural circuits and the role of sleep in emotional learning, which will provide insight to help us to better understand the aetiology and therapeutic interventions development for psychiatric disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and autism spectrum disorders.

Research pic of Cora Lai

  1. Zhou, Y.#, Lai, C.S.W.#, Bai, Y., Zhao, R., Yang, G., Frank, M.G., Gan, W.-B. (2020) REM sleep promotes experience-dependent dendritic spine elimination in the mouse cortex. Nature Communications. 11, 4819. (#Equal contribution.)
  2. He, H., Kong, C., Chan, K.Y., So, W.L., Fok, H.K., Ren, Y.X., Lai, C.S.W., Tsia, K.K., Wong, K.K.Y. (2020) Resolution enhancement in an extended depth of field for volumetric two-photon microscopy. Opt. Lett. 45(11):3054-3057.
  3. Kong, C., Pilger, C., Hachmeister, H., Wei, X., Cheung, T., Lai, C.S.W., Lee, N. Tsia, K., Wong, K.K.Y., Huser, T. (2020) High contrast, fast chemical imaging by coherent Raman scattering using a self-synchronized two-color fiber laser. Light: Science & Applications. 9:25.
  4. Lin, L., Lyu, Q., Kwan, P.Y., Zhao, J., Fan, R., Chai, A., Lai, C.S.W., Chan, Y.S., Shen, X.,Lai, K.O. (2020) The epilepsy and intellectual disability-associated protein TBC1D24 regulates the maintenance of excitatory synapses and animal behaviors. PLOS Genetics. 16(1):e1008587. DOI:10.1371/journal.pgen.1008587
  5. Zhao, J.#, Fok, A.H.K.#, Fan, R., Kwan, P.Y., Chan, H.L., Lo, L.H.Y., Chan, Y.S., Yung W.H., Huang, J., Lai, C.S.W.* and Lai, K.O.* (2020) Specific depletion of the motor protein KIF5B leads to deficits in dendritic transport, synaptic plasticity and memory. (#Equal contribution. *Corresponding authors.)eLife. 9:e53456.
    This work is being highlighted in Nature Reviews Neuroscience by the journal chief editor Darran Yates (2020 Feb 6. doi: 10.1038/s41583-020-0272-8.) and selected for eLife digest.
  6. Chen, K., Zheng, Y., Wei, J., Ouyang, H., Huang, X., Zhang, F., Lai, C.S.W., Ren, C., So, K.-F., & Zhang, L. (2019) Exercise training improves motor skill learning via selective activation of mTOR. Science Advances. 5: eaaw1888.
  7. Shi, D.D., Huang, Y., Lai, C.S.W., Dong, C.M., Ho, L.C., Li, X.Y., Wu, E.X., Li, Q., Wang, X.M., Chen, Y.J., Chung, S.K., Zhang, Z.J. (2019) Ginsenoside Rg1 Prevents Chemotherapy-Induced Cognitive Impairment: Associations with Microglia-Mediated Cytokines, Neuroinflammation, and Neuroplasticity. Mol Neurobiol. 56(8):5626-5642.
  8. Tan, X.J., Kong, C., Ren, Y.X., Lai, C.S.W., Tsia, K.K., Wong, K.K.Y. (2019) Volumetric two-photon microscopy with a non-diffracting Airy beam. Opt. Lett. 44(2):391-394.
  9. Ng, L.H.L., Huang, Y., Chang, R.C.C., Lai, C.S.W. (2018) Ketamine and selective activation of parvalbumin interneurons inhibit stress-induced dendritic spine elimination. Transl. Psychiatry. 8:272.
  10. Lai, C.S.W.*, Adler, A., Gan, W.-B.* (2018) Fear extinction reverses dendritic spine formation induced by fear conditioning in the mouse auditory cortex. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 115(37):9306-9311. *Corresponding author.
  11. Shi, D.D., Huang, Y.H., Lai, C.S.W., Dong, C.M., Ho, L.C., Wu, E.X., Li, Q., Wang, X.M., Chung, S.K., Sham, P.C., Zhang, Z.J. (2018) Chemotherapy-Induced Cognitive Impairment Is Associated with Cytokine Dysregulation and Disruptions in Neuroplasticity. Mol. Neurobiol. 56(3):2234-2243.
  12. Kong, C., Pilger, C., Hachmeister, H., Wei, X., Cheung, T.H., Lai, C.S.W., Huser, T., Tsia, K.K., Wong, K.K.Y. (2017) Compact fs ytterbium fiber laser at 1010 nm for biomedical applications. Biomed. Opt. Express. 8(11):4921-4932.
  13. Chen, K., Zhang, L., Tan, M., Lai, C.S.W., Li, A., Ren, C., So, K.F. (2017) Treadmill exercise suppressed stress-induced dendritic spine elimination in mouse barrel cortex and improved working memory via BDNF/TrkB pathway. Transl. Psychiatry. 2017 Mar 21;7(3):e1069. PMID: 28323283
  14. Lai, C.S.W. (2014) Intravital imaging of dendritic spine plasticity. IntraVital. DOI:10.4161/21659087.2014.984504. (Invited Review) PMID: 28243511 PMCID: PMC5226012
  15. Yang, G., Lai, C.S.W., Cichon, J., Ma, L., Li, W., Gan, W.-B. (2014) Sleep promotes branch-specific formation of dendritic spines after learning. Science. 344 (6188): 1173-1178.
  16. Fénelon, K., Xu, B.*, Lai, C.S.W.*, Mukai, J.*, Markx, S.*, Stark, K.L., Hsu, P.K., Gan, W.B., Fischbach, G.D., MacDermott, A.B., Karayiorgou, M., Gogos, J.A. (2013) The Pattern of Cortical Dysfunction in a Mouse Model of a Schizophrenia-Related Microdeletion. J. Neurosci 33, 14825-14839. (*Equal contribution.)
  17. Lai, C.S.W., Franke, T.F., Gan, W.-B. (2012) Opposite effects of fear conditioning and extinction on dendritic spines remodelling. Nature. 483, 87-91.
  1. Lai, C.S.W. (2014) Intravital imaging of mouse central nervous system in learning and memory. The Croucher Foundation Symposium: Advances in live cell and intravital imaging in biomedicine. HKU, Hong Kong.
  2. Lai, C.S.W. (2013) Opposite effects of fear conditioning and extinction on dendritic spines remodelling. Minisymposium in Structural Synaptic Plasticity: Emerging Breakthroughs and Relationship to Disease. Soc. Neurosci. 43rd Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA, USA.
  3. Lai, C.S.W., Franke, T.F., Gan, W.-B. (2012) Opposite effects of fear conditioning and extinction on dendritic spines remodelling. Neuronal Circuits Meeting, Cold Spring Harbor, New York, USA.
  4. Lai, C.S.W., Franke, T.F., Gan, W.-B. (2012) Opposite effects of fear conditioning and extinction on dendritic spines remodelling. Neural Circuit Basis Of Behavior & Its Disorders, Cold Spring Harbor Asia Conference, Suzhou, China.
  • RGC/ECS (2015-2020)
  • NSFC-General program (2015-2019)
  • HMRF (2016-2018)
  • RGC/GRF (2018-2020) 
  • RGC/GRF (2021-2023)


Last updated: September 24, 2020