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Takao Hensch, PhD
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Takao  Hensch, PhD

Department: Neurology
Research Centers: Neurology Research Center
Hospital Title: Senior Research Associate in Neurology
Academic Title: Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School
Research Area: Critical periods in brain development


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Research Overview

Takao Hensch examines how early life experience shapes brain function.  Neural circuits are both actively sculpted and vulnerable to disorders during such “critical periods” of development.  Integrating molecular, cellular and systems neuroscience, Hensch has revealed that these periods are themselves plastic and reversible.  Specific, inhibitory (GABA) circuits determine their onset timing, and “brake”-like factors ultimately consolidate this potent rewiring process.  Translational research at Children’s Hospital inspired by his work targets recovery from neurodevelopmental disorders, such as amblyopia, epilepsy and autism spectrum disorders.  See feature article in Nature for details.

About Takao Hensch

Takao Hensch received his PhD from UCSF (HHMI Fellow) after training at Harvard, University of Tokyo (MPH) and the Max-Planck Institut (Fulbright Fellow).  He is a recipient of the Young Investigator Award from both the Japanese (2001 Tsukahara Prize) and US (2005) Society for Neuroscience, the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award (2007) and leads the NUMH Silvio Conte Center on Mental Health Research at Harvard.  See more at Hensch lab webpage.

Key Publications

  • Sugiyama S, Di Nardo AA, Aizawa S, Matsuo I, Volovitch M, Prochiantz A, Hensch TK. (2008) Experience- dependent transfer of Otx2 homeoprotein into the visual cortex activates postnatal plasticity. Cell 134:508-520.

  • Morishita H, Hensch TK. (2008) Critical period revisited: impact on vision. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 18: 101-107.

  • Katagiri H, fagiolini M & Hensch TK. Optimization of somatic inhibition at critical period onset in mouse visual cortex. Neuron 53:805-812.

  • Hensch TK. (2005) Critical period plasticity in local cortical circuits. Nat Rev Neurosci. 6:877-888.

  • Mataga N. Mizuguchi Y & Hensch TK (2004) Experience-dependent pruning of dendritic spinees in visual cortex by tissue plasminogen activator. Neuron 44: 1031-41.

  • Fagiolini M, Fritschy J-M, Low K, Mohler H, Rudolph U & Hensch TK. (2004) Specific GABAA circuits for visual cortical plasticity. Science 303: 1681-1683.


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