Yuanyuan Liu, PhD

Stadtman Investigator

Somatosensation and Pain Unit


Building 35A, Room 3E410
35A Convent Dr. MSC 3757
Bethesda MD 20892



Research Topics

Descending supraspinal pathways integrate signals from multiple brain regions and are the neural basis by which our brain controls our body. As yet, the design principles for such top-down control remain elusive. The mission of our lab is: (1) To decipher supraspinal circuits in somatosensory perception. (2) To investigate the underlying mechanisms of top-down control in chronic pain states. To achieve these goals, we will use a multidisciplinary approach combining intersectional viral-mediated gene manipulation, in vivo imaging, and electrophysiological and single-cell sequencing techniques. Ultimately, our research will help explain how our mental states directly alter normal and pathological somatosensory perception in different contexts or mood states, and will uncover potential targets for treating pain.


Dr. Yuanyuan (Kevin) Liu obtained his B.S. degree in biological pharmacy in Nanjing University, China. He received his Ph.D. in Dr. Ben Szaro’s lab at the State University of New York, focusing on the role of an RNA binding protein in axon development and regeneration in Xenopus Laevis. He completed his postdoc training in Dr. Zhigang He’s lab at Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. During his postdoc career, he optimized an elegant, multi-step viral-based intersectional targeting tool, which he used to dissect the role of corticospinal neurons in controlling distinct spinal circuits involved in fine motor control and tactile sensation. He joined NIDCR/NCCIH in 2020 and will continue his work to decipher the supraspinal circuits which control somatosensory perception and pain.

Selected Publications

  1. Liu Y, Hegarty S, Winter C, Wang F, He Z. Viral vectors for neuronal cell type-specific visualization and manipulations. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2020;63:67-76.
  2. Pederick DT, Lui JH, Gingrich EC, Xu C, Wagner MJ, Liu Y, He Z, Quake SR, Luo L. Reciprocal repulsions instruct the precise assembly of parallel hippocampal networks. Science. 2021;372(6546):1068-1073.
  3. Zhou W, Ye C, Wang H, Mao Y, Zhang W, Liu A, Yang CL, Li T, Hayashi L, Zhao W, Chen L, Liu Y, Tao W, Zhang Z. Sound induces analgesia through corticothalamic circuits. Science. 2022;377(6602):198-204.

Related Scientific Focus Areas

This page was last updated on Thursday, November 9, 2023