Cora Sau-Wan Lai(賴秀芸)
Assistant Professor
Office: L4-57, Laboratory Block, 21 Sassoon Road, Pokfulam, Hong Kong
Phone: (852) 3917 9266
Fax: (852) 2855 9730
HKU Scholars Hub


Dr. Cora Lai is currently an Assistant Professor in the department of Physiology and Anatomy, The University of Hong Kong. She obtained her bachelor and doctoral degrees at HKU. She joined the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine in the Langone NYU Medical Center (New York, USA) for postdoctoral training. She works on intravital imaging of the mouse central nervous system in learning and memory, and psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and depression.

Research Interests:
One of the major goals of neuroscience is to understand how the brain integrates, processes and stores a wide range of information to modify behavior. 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. We use auditory fear conditioning and fear extinction as learning paradigms to study the basic mechanisms of associative learning at the behavioral, circuitry and molecular levels.

We use in vivo imaging, optogentics, genetic manipulations and behavioral approaches to understand synaptic plasticity, neural circuits and molecular signaling pathways in fear learning and unlearning. Understanding the neural circuits and mechanisms involving fear conditioning and extinction in normal physiological conditioning will provide insight to better understanding and therapeutic interventions for psychiatric disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or schizophrenia that have deficits in fear conditioning or extinction. We are also interested to study the etiology and treatments for other mood related disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Selected Publication:

  1. Lai CSW, Adler A, Gan WB. Fear extinction reverses dendritic spine formation induced by fear conditioning in the mouse auditory cortex. PNAS. 2018; 115(37):9306-9311.

  2. Lai, C.S.W. (2015) Intravital imaging of dendritic spine plasticity. IntraVital. DOI:10.4161/21659087.2014.984504. (Review)

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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. (F1000 Prime)