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Song-Lin Ding Headshot

Song-Lin Ding, Ph.D.

Principal Scientist


Song-Lin Ding joined the Allen Institute in 2010 as a chief neuroanatomist to create reference atlases for the developing and adult human brains. He also generates brain ontology and defines laser microdissection sampling areas for human and macaque brain structures in various stages of development. Ding has over 23 years of experience in neuroanatomy. Prior to joining the Allen Institute, Ding served as a research scientist at the University of Iowa and a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Rochester. In both places, he focused on anatomical organization of adult human and macaque brains. At the University of Iowa he also helped characterize a mouse model for Batten Disease. Prior to this work, Ding was an Associate Professor at the Institute of Neuroscience, Guangzhou Medical College, China where he investigated the development of human visual and hippocampal cortices. His research interests mainly cover connectional, chemical, developmental and comparative aspects of the visual and limbic systems. His postdoctoral work at the Center for Neuroscience at the University of Tennessee, Memphis focused on the development and chemical natures of the corpus callosum connections in the rat and cat visual cortex. Ding received a M.D. from Hunan Medical University in China. He is also a Guest Professor at the Institute of Neuroscience, Guangzhou Medical College, China.

Research Focus:

Understanding detailed brain organization – including its cell types, chemical/molecular nature, connections and parcellations – is an essential step to revealing the mechanisms underlying different brain functions and related diseases. As a neuroanatomist, I am interested in generating anatomical and molecular atlases for the developing and adult human and macaque brains. We use these atlases to guide our large-scale laser microdissection efforts at the Allen Institute. To create precise and detailed human brain reference atlases I use a combination of cellular and molecular markers in multiple cell types to identify the chemical characterization, molecular signature, and unique developmental changes of each target brain structure. So far we have created the first version of digital reference atlases for one adult and two prenatal human brains. Our ongoing effort is to generate reference atlases with more detailed parcellation of the entire human brain by adding fine cortical and subcortical subdivisions. Anatomical and molecular atlases of developing macaque brains provide exemplary models where there is very limited availability of human brains in various stages of development. To collect large-scale microarray data on macaque brain development we are now trying to define all layers of the visual, somatosensory and anterior cingulate cortices as well as subdivisions of the hippocampal formation, amygdala and basal ganglia at six stages of prenatal development. This dataset, together with the microarray data from prenatal human brains, will significantly fuel our understanding of human brain development and related disease. One of my future goals is to explore comparative neuroanatomy of human, monkey and rodent brains with emphasis on the visual and limbic structures. I aim to compare cell types and their molecular characterization, wiring circuits and developmental changes in different species in order to gain information on similarities and differences among these species. In addition, searching for mouse cortical homologues of human and macaque brains using molecular and connectional neuroanatomy would greatly facilitate the interactive use of the huge datasets created at the Allen Institute for mouse, macaque and human brains.

Science Programs at Allen Institute