Henry Yin

Henry Yin

Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and Director of Graduate Studies

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., University of California at Los Angeles 2004


I am interested in understanding the neural mechanisms underlying goal-directed actions. For the first time in history, advances in psychology and neurobiology have made it feasible to pursue the detailed neural mechanisms underlying goal-directed and voluntary actions--how they are driven by the needs and desires of the organism and controlled by cognitive processes that provide a rich representation of the self and the world. My approach to this problem is highly integrative, combining behavioral analysis with electrophysiological techniques as well as tools from molecular biology. In the near future three techniques will be emphasized. 1) Dissecting reward-guided behavior using analytical behavioral assays. 2) In vivo recording from cerebral cortex, thalamus, midbrain, and basal ganglia in awake behaving rodents. Up to hundreds of neurons can be recorded from multiple brain areas that form a functional neural network in a single animal. 3) In vitro (and ex vivo) whole-cell patch-clamp recording in brain slices, with the aid of genetic tools for visualization of distinct neuronal populations. Ultimately, I hope to characterize goal-directed actions at multiple levels of analysis--from molecules to neural networks. This knowledge will provide us with insight into various pathological conditions characterized by impaired goal-directed behaviors, such as drug addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Parkinson's disease, and Huntington's disease.


Reward, action, goal, learning, habit, basal ganglia, brain, motivation

Hughes, Ryan N., et al. “Precise Coordination of Three-Dimensional Rotational Kinematics by Ventral Tegmental Area GABAergic Neurons.Current Biology : Cb, vol. 29, no. 19, Oct. 2019, pp. 3244-3255.e4. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2019.08.022. Full Text

Yang, Rui, et al. “ANK2 autism mutation targeting giant ankyrin-B promotes axon branching and ectopic connectivity.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, vol. 116, no. 30, July 2019, pp. 15262–71. Pubmed, doi:10.1073/pnas.1904348116. Full Text

Kim, Namsoo, et al. “A striatal interneuron circuit for continuous target pursuit.Nat Commun, vol. 10, no. 1, June 2019, p. 2715. Pubmed, doi:10.1038/s41467-019-10716-w. Full Text

Tan, Shawn, et al. “Postnatal TrkB ablation in corticolimbic interneurons induces social dominance in male mice.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 115, no. 42, Oct. 2018, pp. E9909–15. Epmc, doi:10.1073/pnas.1812083115. Full Text

Risher, W. Christopher, et al. “Thrombospondin receptor α2δ-1 promotes synaptogenesis and spinogenesis via postsynaptic Rac1.J Cell Biol, vol. 217, no. 10, Oct. 2018, pp. 3747–65. Pubmed, doi:10.1083/jcb.201802057. Full Text

Rodriguez, Erica, et al. “Publisher Correction: A craniofacial-specific monosynaptic circuit enables heightened affective pain.Nat Neurosci, vol. 21, no. 6, June 2018, p. 896. Pubmed, doi:10.1038/s41593-018-0103-7. Full Text

Bey, Alexandra L., et al. “Brain region-specific disruption of Shank3 in mice reveals a dissociation for cortical and striatal circuits in autism-related behaviors.Transl Psychiatry, vol. 8, no. 1, Apr. 2018, p. 94. Pubmed, doi:10.1038/s41398-018-0142-6. Full Text

O’Hare, Justin, et al. “Recent Insights into Corticostriatal Circuit Mechanisms underlying Habits: Invited review for Current Opinions in Behavioral Sciences.Curr Opin Behav Sci, vol. 20, Apr. 2018, pp. 40–46. Pubmed, doi:10.1016/j.cobeha.2017.10.001. Full Text

Rodriguez, Erica, et al. “A craniofacial-specific monosynaptic circuit enables heightened affective pain.Nat Neurosci, vol. 20, no. 12, Dec. 2017, pp. 1734–43. Pubmed, doi:10.1038/s41593-017-0012-1. Full Text Open Access Copy

Toda, Koji, et al. “Nigrotectal Stimulation Stops Interval Timing in Mice.Current Biology : Cb, vol. 27, no. 24, Dec. 2017, pp. 3763-3770.e3. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2017.11.003. Full Text


Yin, H. H. “Restoring purpose in behavior.” Computational and Robotic Models of the Hierarchical Organization of Behavior, vol. 9783642398759, 2013, pp. 319–47. Scopus, doi:10.1007/978-3-642-39875-9_14. Full Text

Yin, H. H., and B. J. Knowlton. “Addiction and learning in the brain.” Handbook of Implicit Cognition and Addiction, 2005, pp. 167–84. Scopus, doi:10.4135/9781412976237.n12. Full Text

Yin, H. H., et al. “From habits to actions: Dorsolateral striatum lesions alter the content of learning.” Iconip 2002  Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Neural Information Processing: Computational Intelligence for the E Age, vol. 3, 2002, pp. 1579–81. Scopus, doi:10.1109/ICONIP.2002.1202887. Full Text

Selected Grants

Neurobiology Training Program awarded by National Institutes of Health (Mentor). 2019 to 2024

Striatal Plasticity in Habit Formation as a Platform to Deconstruct Adaptive Learning awarded by National Institutes of Health (Co Investigator). 2018 to 2023

Heat Shock Factors and Protein Misfolding Disease awarded by National Institutes of Health (Collaborator). 2018 to 2023

Striatal Circuits for Goal Pursuit awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2017 to 2022

The Role of Opponent Basal Ganglia Outputs in Behavior awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2017 to 2021

Dissecting basal ganglia circuit mechanisms underlying instrumental learning awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2016 to 2021

The Regulation of Synaptic Connectivity and Homeostasis by Huntingtin awarded by National Institutes of Health (Co Investigator). 2016 to 2020

Genes, Neural Circuits, and Behavior awarded by University of Tennessee Health Science Center (Principal Investigator). 2019 to 2020

Taking DISCO Live: Dual pathway Imaging of Striatal Circuit Output in vivo awarded by National Institutes of Health (Collaborator). 2017 to 2019

Genes, Neural Circuits, and Behavior awarded by National Institutes of Health (Co Investigator). 2018 to 2019