Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Laboratory of Translational Neurobiology

Directed by Hongxin Dong, MD, PhD, research in the traslational neurobiology laboratory focuses on the study of the interactions between genetic, epigenetic and environmental influences on neurodevelopment and neurodegeneration, and their mechanisms relevant to the pathogenesis of neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, autism and Alzheimer’s disease. Our research strategies are multidisciplinary and collaborative, combining multiple approaches from molecular biology to animal model behavior. The ultimate goal of our research is to establish animal models for better understanding of the mechanisms of the neuropsychiatric disorders and to develop therapeutic strategies for the slowing of disease progression and the prevention of disease onset.

Aging and antipsychotic efficacy - epigenetic mechanisms
The use of psychotropic medications in the elderly population generates a number of obstacles, including decreased drug efficacy and increased side effects. It is not yet known whether the epigenetic changes that occur with aging play a role in antipsychotic efficacy. In this study, we investigate whether histone deacetylase inhibitors can improve drug efficacy and decrease extra-pyramidal side effects by regulating epigenetic alterations. This information is essential for developing an alternative treatment strategy for the aged patients with psychiatric disorders.

Transgenerational epigenetic effects on dopamine receptor development
Environmental stimuli in early life such as prenatal stress exerts a strong impact on brain development and contribute to a wide variety of neuropsychiatric diseases including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and substance use disorders. To date, the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood, although most of these disorders have been thought to be related to dopamine system dysfunction. In this study, we investigate the mechanisms of prenatal stress induced dopamine receptor D2 (DRD2) dysfunction in the offspring due to the epigenetic transgenerational effects on Drd2 gene promoter. The results of this study will provide firm evidence of the impact of epigenetic inheritability on neuropsychiatric disorders.

CRF and its receptor regulate the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease
Increasing evidence indicates that chronic psychosocial stress and physical exercise differentially affect the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, the mechanisms underlying these behavioral effects and their interactions with AD remain unclear. In this project, we use a new transgenic mouse model of AD to study the effects of corticotrophin-releasing factor, a key stress regulator, on disease neuropathogenesis and memory function, as well as ways that exercise can modulate these effects.

Effects of stress and THC on schizophrenia progression—an animal model study
Stress is believed to be an important factor in the onset of psychosis in late adolescents at elevated risk. We examine the interactions betweeen stress, PCP and THC, and the extent of induced cognitive impairment and locomotor dysfunction and how antipsychotics effect on these phenotypes. Our goal is to create a mouse model that translates well to current clinical knowledge on the ability of antipsychotic drugs to improve psychosis and the cognitive deficit in schizophrenia.

Our Success


Grants and Funding



Lab Staff


John G. Csernansky, MD, Gilman Professor and Chair
Herbert Y Meltzer, MD, Professor

PhD Student

Ellie Hong

Graduate Student

Janitza Montalvo Ortiz

Technical Staff

Guadalupe Rodriguez
Yong Hui Mai

Post Doctorate Fellow

Saikat Chakraborty, M.Sc, PhD

Contact Us

Contact Hongxin Dong, MD, PhD, for more information on the Translational Neurobiology Laboratory.

Hongxin Dong