Faculty A-Z

Qi Yuan

Professor of Neurosciences PhD (Memorial University)

BioMedical Sciences

Ph.D. Memorial University

Postdoctoral Appointments:
Riken Brain Science Institute
University of California at San Diego/Howard Hughes Medical Institute


The ability to learn and remember makes us who we are. Memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD) impair and erase memories, and undo our life. The Yuan lab uses a combination of long-standing and novel techniques to explore the processes underlying learning and memory, as well as its decline with age and AD.

Current research in Dr. Yuan’s lab covers four main areas:

  • Locus coeruleus-norepinephrine modulation of learning and Alzheimer’s disease

The locus coeruleus (LC) has been discovered to play crucial roles in both learning and memory and the development of AD. Importantly, LC functions are related to its firing patterns. Recent research from our lab shows that optimal phasic LC activation facilitates discrimination learning and promotes positive memories, while high tonic LC activation generates stress and negative associations. We are currently studying how these different patterns of LC activity affect cognitive functions and tau pathophysiology in a novel rat model of AD.

  • Environmental factors in pre-tangle tau pathology

Our lab has recently developed a pre-tangle tau rat model which encapsulates the preclinical phase of AD as outlined by Braak. With this model, we are studying the effects of stress, enrichment, and diet on AD progression, as well as the epigenetic changes they may induce.

  • Calcium Dysregulation in aging and Alzheimer’s disease

Using behavioural, electrophysiological, and molecular analyses, we study the role of calcium dysregulation in the disruption of learning and memory in both normal aging and AD.

  • Higher-order memory formation

Using retrograde tracing and optogenetics, we map stress- and reward learning in the brain. We are also curious about the neuronal fingerprints of first- and second-order conditioning, and the epigenetic changes they induce, which has implications for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Selected Publication:

Maziar A, Critch TNRHY, Ghosh S, Rajani V, Flynn CM, Qin T, Reinhardt C, Man KN, Lee A, Hell JW, Yuan Q (2022) . Aging-induced overexpression and hyperfunction of L-type calcium channels in the hippocampal CA1 neurons are not features of pyramidal neuron in rat piriform cortex. Cereb Cortex. bhac152. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhac152. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35437602.

Omoluabi T, Torraville SE, Maziar A, Ghosh A, Power KD, Reinhardt C, Harley CW, Yuan Q (2021). Novelty-like activation of locus coeruleus protects against deleterious human pre-tangle tau effects while stress-inducing activation worsens its effects. Alzheimers Dement (N Y). 7(1):e12231. doi: 10.1002/trc2.12231. PMID: 35005208; PMCID: PMC8719346.

Ghosh A, Massaeli F, Power KD, Omoluabi T, Torraville SE, Pritchett JB, Sepahvand T, Strong VD, Reinhardt C, Chen X, Martin GM, Harley CW, and Yuan Q (2021). Locus coeruleus activation patterns differentially modulate odor discrimination learning and odor valence in rats. Cerebral Cortex Communication. 2(2): tgab026. Doi 10.1093/texcom/tgab026.

Ghosh A, Torraville SE, Mukherjee B, Walling SG, Martin GM, Harley CW, and Yuan Q (2019). An experimental model of Braak’s pretangle proposal for the origin of Alzheimer’s disease: the role of locus coeruleus in early symptom development. Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy. 11(1): 59. Doi 10.1186/s13195-019-0511-2.

Carew SJ, Mukherjee B, MacIntyre ITK, Ghosh A, Li S, Kirouac GJ, Harley CW and Yuan Q (2018). Pheromone-induced odor associative fear learning in rats. Scientific Reports. 8(1): 17701. Doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-36023-w.

Mukherjee B, Harley CW, and Yuan Q (2017) Learning-induced metaplasticity? Associative training for early odor preference learning down-regulates synapse-specific NMDA receptors via mGluR and calcineurin activation. Cerebral Cortex . 27(1):616-624. Doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhv256.

Mukherjee B, Yuan Q (2016) NMDA receptors in mouse anterior piriform cortex initialize early odor preference learning and L-type calcium channels engage for long-term memory. Scientific Reports. 6:35256. Doi: 10.1038/srep35256.

Shakhawat AMD, Gheidi A, MacIntyre ITK, Walsh ML, Harley CW and Yuan Q (2015). Arc-expressing neuronal ensembles supporting pattern separation require adrenergic activity in anterior piriform cortex: an exploration of neural constraints on learning. Journal of Neuroscience. 35(41): 14070-14075

Shakhawat AMD, Harley CW and Yuan Q (2014). Arc visualization of odor objects reveals experience-dependent ensemble sharpening, separation, and merging in anterior piriform cortex in adult rat. Journal of Neuroscience. 34(31): 10206-10210

Mukherjee B, Morrison GL, Fontaine CJ, Hou Q, Harley CW and Yuan Q (2014) Unlearning: NMDA Receptor-Mediated Metaplasticity in the Anterior Piriform Cortex Following Early Odor Preference Training in Rats. Journal of Neuroscience. 34(15):5143-5151

Yuan Q, Shakhawat AMD, Harley CW (2014). Mechanisms underlying early odor preference learning in rats. In Barkai E. Wilson D (ed.) Progress in Brain Research: Odor Memory and Perception. Elsevier, Amsterdam.

Lab Retreat 2021