Hui Lu Hui Lu
Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology

Office Phone: 202-994-4166
Email: Email
Department: Pharmacology and Physiology


  • B.E. Computer Science, University of Science and Technology of China, 2000
  • B.S. Biological Science, University of Science and Technology of China, 2000
  • M.S., University of Science and Technology of China, 2003
  • Ph.D, University of California Berkeley, 2009


My fascination with the brain began when I was an undergraduate in biology major, and I foresaw that the approaches of computer science would be very valuable in studying brain function. Fortunately, my undergraduate performance was such that I was urged to enter the MS program in neuroscience without having to take the entrance exam; I took advantage of this offer to build a foundation in neuroscience while planning where to apply in the U.S. for graduate school. I was accepted into the Neuroscience program at UC Berkeley in 2004, where I joined the laboratory of Mu-ming Poo, PhD to learn electrophysiological, biochemical, and imaging methods as I studied the molecular mechanisms of cocaine addiction. I then joined the laboratory of Yang Dan, PhD as a postdoctoral fellow to learn how to apply in vivo functional imaging techniques to settling a long-standing question in the development of visual cortical circuit. To gain experience in studying neurological diseases, I joined the laboratory of Huda Y. Zoghbi, MD at Baylor College of Medicine for a second postdoctoral fellowship. There I applied the imaging and electrophysiological techniques I had learned to explore the neural circuit dysfunctions in two neurodevelopmental diseases related to dysfunction of the X-linked gene MECP2 (Rett syndrome and MECP2 duplication syndrome). Using two-photon calcium imaging on CA1 pyramidal cells in hippocampal slices, I found that loss and gain of MeCP2 function both lead to the same hippocampal circuit abnormalities, despite nearly opposite transcriptional profiles; moreover, I showed that this circuit dysfunction could be rescued by deep brain stimulation in a Rett syndrome mouse model. While in the Zoghbi lab I also contributed to projects on other neurodevelopmental disorders, such as those involving SHANK3 (Han et al., Nature 2013), and to studies of MeCP2 effects in GABAergic (Ure et al., eLife 2016) and glutamatergic (Meng et al., eLife 2016) neurons. 
            Now, in my independent lab at GWU, we have pursued deeper analyses of circuit dysfunctions in MeCP2-deficient mice, as related to motor function, social interactions, and emotional states.


Neural computations depend on the propagation of signals through finely-tuned and precisely-wired circuit components in the brain. This conclusion has been reached by directly relating the dynamic function of neural circuits to sensory experience and behavior. It is a compelling hypothesis that genetic mutations which perturb cognition and behavior, such as those associated with autism, mediate their effects by disrupting these finely-tuned and precisely-wired circuits and thereby altering neural information processing. From this point of view, measuring how neural circuit function is altered in autism models provides a window into important principles of optimal neural circuit function. Equally important, a better understanding of the biological basis of autism will likely lead to better therapies for autism and other disorders of neural circuit function (“circuitopathies”).

My lab is interested in understanding the bidirectional link between physiological changes in neural circuitry and behaviors. We endeavor to characterize neural circuit coding of mouse behavior and understand the dysfunction of neural circuits in mouse models of human diseases, by using the tools of in vivo two-photon calcium imaging, optogenetics, mouse genetics, computational analyses and machine learning approaches.

Currently, we have pursued deeper analyses of circuit dysfunctions related to motor function, social interactions, and emotional state in mouse model of a severe neurodevelopmental disorder, Rett syndrome. We have also been actively collaborating with other scientists at GWU and Johns Hopkins to develop state-of-the-art miniaturized two-photon imaging tools that will allow us to record neurons with high resolution as the animals are freely moving rather than head-fixed.


NINDS R01NS118197 - 01A1                                                     Lu (PI)                04/01/2022-03/31/2027
Title: Understanding the effects of motor learning in wild-type and Mecp2-deficient mice   
Cross Disciplinary Research Fund                                         Lu (lead PI)         07/01/20 - 06/30/2022
George Washington University
Title: Bridging the gap between individual neurons and behavior: studying circuits in Rett syndrome
Cross Disciplinary Research Fund                                         Lu (Co-PI)         07/01/20 - 06/30/2022
George Washington University
Title: Wireless multifunctional all-optical modulation and imaging biointerfaces for in vivo behavioral studies


1995                Outstanding Freshman Scholarship, University of Science and Technology of China
2000                Guanghua Education Scholarship, Guanghua Education Foundation
2000                Graduated with honors in both majors, Anhui Province, China
2000                Outstanding Bachelor’s Thesis, University of Science and Technology of China
2001                Peng Yingang Scholarship, Chinese Academy of Sciences
2002                Bao Gang Education Scholarship, Bao Gang Education Foundation
2003                Jiuyuan Scholarship for Life Sciences in China, Tan Jiazhen Foundation
2004                Special Student Award, University of Science and Technology of China
2004                Graduate Fellowship from Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley
2008                Elizabeth Roboz Einstein Fellowship, University of California, Berkeley
2014                Pathway to Independence Award, NINDS
2017                NARSAD Young Investigator Award
2018                Basil O'Connor Starter Scholar Research Award


Developmental Neuroscience
Systems Physiology
Foundations of Experimental Neuroscience I
Foundations of Experimental Neuroscience II
Graduate seminar in Neuroscience. Led one session.
Pharmacology (MD and PA program) 


Yuanlei Yue, Pan Xu, Zhichao Liu, Xiaoqian Sun, Jutao Su, Hongfei Du, Lingling Chen, Ryan T. Ash, Stelios M. Smirnakis, Rahul Simha, Linda Kusner, Chen Zeng, Hui Lu (2021) Motor training improves coordination and anxiety in symptomatic Mecp2-null mice despite impaired functional connectivity within the motor circuit. Science Advances, 7:eabf7467.

Ang Li, Honghua Guan, Hyeon-Cheol Park, Yuanlei Yue, Defu Chen, Wenxuan Liang, Ming-Jun Li, Hui Lu, and Xingde Li. (2021) Twist-free ultralight two-photon fiberscope enabling neuroimaging on freely rotating/walking mice. Optica, 8:870-879.

Hui Lu, Ryan T. Ash, Lingjie He, Sara E. Kee, Wei Wang, Dinghui Yu, Shuang Hao, Xiangling Meng, Kerstin Ure, Yaling Sun, Daoyun Ji, Jiangrong Tang, Benjamin R. Arenkiel, Stelios M. Smirnakis, and Huda Y. Zoghbi. (2016) Loss and gain of MeCP2 cause similar hippocampal circuit dysfunction that is rescued by deep brain stimulation in a Rett syndrome mouse model. Neuron. 91:739-747.

Ye Li*, Hui Lu* (Co-first author), Pei-lin Cheng, Shaoyu Ge, Huatai Xu, Song-Hai Shi, Yang Dan. (2012) Clonally related visual cortical neurons show similar stimulus feature selectivity. Nature. 486:118-121.

Hui Lu, Pei-lin Cheng, Byung Kook Lim, Nina Khoshnevisrad, Mu-ming Poo. (2010) Elevated BDNF expression after cocaine withdrawal facilitates LTP in medial prefrontal cortex by suppressing GABA inhibition. Neuron. 67:821-833.

Industry Relationships and Collaborations

This faculty member (or a member of their immediate family) has reported a financial interest with the health care related companies listed below. These relations have been reported to the University and, when appropriate, management plans are in place to address potential conflicts.

  • None