Welcome to the Nieh Lab at the University of Virginia

We are located in the Department of Pharmacology of the School of Medicine.

Our goal is to understand the neural code underlying the generation of different motivated behaviors (e.g. feeding, drinking, and social interaction), with a focus on how malfunction in associated brain areas are involved in diseases like addiction.

We are a systems neuroscience lab that loves to adopt cutting edge techniques. We use a combination of rodent behaviors in real life and virtual reality, 2-photon imaging and stimulation, in vivo electrophysiology, optogenetics, and computational approaches to observe, manipulate, and model neural activity at the single-cell and population-activity levels.

We are looking to hire at several levels (techs, students, and postdocs). Please contact me if you're interested in the lab!

Key Publications

Compulsive Sugar Seeking

One of the first publications to use optogenetics to "phototag" cells by projection target. We uncovered neural circuit elements between the lateral hypothalamus (LH) and  the ventral tegmental area (VTA) that play a significant role in controlling compulsive sugar-seeking

Nieh et al., Cell 2015 (cover)

Disinhibition Drives Motivated Behaviors

Another state-of-the-art technology of the time, fiber photometry, was used to uncover the disinhibitory mechanisms in the VTA that give rise to motivated behaviors, like feeding and social interaction. We combined fiber photometry with optogenetics and voltammetry to built a circuit diagram from the LH to the VTA to the NAc (nucleus accumbens). 

Nieh et al., Neuron 2016

Neural Manifolds in the Hippocampus

Think about the route you're going to take to school or work today. Now think about what you're going to do for dinner. It's easy to imagine a map that represents physical space, but we also have neural "maps" that represent our decision-making space as well. We found that the hippocampus combines physical and cognitive space into the same multidimensional map, aka the neural manifold, in mice performing a navigational decision-making task in virtual reality.

Nieh et al., Nature 2021

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Contact us

Email: enieh AT virginia.edu

Address: 1340 Jefferson Park Ave.  
Pinn Hall, Room 5030 
Charlottesville, VA 22908


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