Henry Yin

Henry Yin

Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and Director of Graduate Studies

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., University of California - 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

Rossi, Mark A., et al. “Operant self-stimulation of dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra.Plos One, vol. 8, no. 6, Jan. 2013, p. e65799. Epmc, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065799. Full Text

Rossi, Mark A., et al. “Bidirectional modulation of substantia nigra activity by motivational state.Plos One, vol. 8, no. 8, Jan. 2013, p. e71598. Epmc, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071598. Full Text

Rossi, Mark A., et al. “Prefrontal cortical mechanisms underlying delayed alternation in mice.Journal of Neurophysiology, vol. 108, no. 4, Aug. 2012, pp. 1211–22. Epmc, doi:10.1152/jn.01060.2011. Full Text

Rossi, Mark A., and Henry H. Yin. “Methods for studying habitual behavior in mice.Current Protocols in Neuroscience, vol. Chapter 8, July 2012, p. Unit-8.29. Epmc, doi:10.1002/0471142301.ns0829s60. Full Text

Fan, David, et al. “Mechanisms of action selection and timing in substantia nigra neurons.The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience, vol. 32, no. 16, Apr. 2012, pp. 5534–48. Epmc, doi:10.1523/jneurosci.5924-11.2012. Full Text

Yu, Chunxiu, et al. “Dynamic changes in single unit activity and γ oscillations in a thalamocortical circuit during rapid instrumental learning.Plos One, vol. 7, no. 11, Jan. 2012, p. e50578. Epmc, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0050578. Full Text

Rossi, M. A., and D. Fan. “Mechanisms of action selection and timing in substantia nigra neurons.Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 2, no. 16, 2012.

Rossi, M. A., and H. H. Yin. “The role of the dorsal striatum in instrumental conditioning.” Neuromethods, vol. 62, Oct. 2011, pp. 55–69. Scopus, doi:10.1007/978-1-61779-301-1_4. Full Text

Fan, David, et al. “A wireless multi-channel recording system for freely behaving mice and rats.Plos One, vol. 6, no. 7, Jan. 2011, p. e22033. Epmc, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022033. Full Text Open Access Copy