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Emily Sylwestrak, Ph.D.

University of Oregon


Emily Sylwestrak starts as an Assistant Professor in the Institute of Neuroscience at the University of Oregon in Spring 2019. Emily’s lab will focus on how transcriptionally diverse sets of neurons are organized to mediate complex behavior and how those circuits can be flexibly implemented under different behavioral states.  As a graduate student with Anirvan Ghosh at UC – San Diego, she studied how cell-surface cues allow neurons to recognize synaptic partners and tailor the properties of a given synapse accordingly.  She continued working on the molecular control of synapse function in health and disease at F. Hoffmann-La Roche in Basel, Switzerland with Dr. Ghosh and Peter Scheiffele.  

As a postdoctoral fellow in Karl Deisseroth’s Lab, she developed protocols for visualizing gene expression in intact, transparent tissues in order to merge molecular information with three-dimensional structural information.  More recently, Emily has turned her attention to the habenula, a strikingly heterogeneous brain structure implicated in a wide variety of behaviors, including motivation, anxiety, and sleep.   Using in vivo imaging techniques to monitor the activity of molecularly-defined cell types, she has found that distinct aspects of motivated behavior are separately encoded in habenular cell types.  Emily is interested in applying these techniques to understand how dysfunction of particular types of neurons may contribute to altered reward processing in neuropsychiatric disorders.