Florida State University

Accepting new graduate students.

Dr. Xiaobing Zhang

Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
PDB B339


The research of our lab focuses on the neural circuits that controls eating behavior and body weight. We use a variety of techniques including optogenetics, electrophysiology, immunocytochemistry and virus-mediated circuit tracing to elucidate how neural circuits for feeding and reward in the mammalian brain are merged to regulate eating behavior. Our research goal is to understand the central mechanism of eating disorders and obesity.
Current Research
1) Hedonic eating and binge eating disorders: Although the central mechanism for binge eating disorder remains largely unknown, more and more studies suggest that brain reward system is involved in the development of binge eating disorder. Recently, we reported that activation of an inhibitory neural circuit from zona incerta to paraventricular thalamus rapidly evokes binge-like eating of palatable food. Based on this finding, we currently focus on zona incerta and paraventricular thalamus to further understand how these regions link to brain reward center for regulating hedonic eating. We also study the neural circuit dysfunction and synaptic modification in mice with eating disorders and obesity. 2) Hypothalamus and energy homeostasis: Hypothalamic neurons play a critical role in controlling energy homeostasis of our body. Using slice electrophysiology in combination with optogenetics, we study how neuropeptide modulates neurotransmission inside hypothalamus for the regulation of food intake. We are also interested in the functional circuit connection of hypothalamic neurons to other brain areas outside of hypothalamus such as brain reward and emotion centers.
Recent Publications
Barrett LR, Nunez J, Zhang X (2021). Oxytocin activation of paraventricular thalamic neurons promotes feeding motivation to attenuate stress-induced hypophagia. Neuropsychopharmacology, 46(5): 1045-1056. PubMed
Ye Q, Zhang X (2021). Serotonin activates paraventricular thalamic neurons through direct depolarization and indirect disinhibition from zona incerta. J Physiol, . PubMed
Zhang L, Zhang X, Hsieh LS, Lin TV, Bordey A (2021).  Rab27a-dependent paracrine communication controls dendritic spine formation and sensory responses in the barrel cortex. Cells , 10(3): 622. PubMed
van den Pol AN, Acuna C, Davis JN, Huang H, Zhang X (2019). Defining the caudal hypothalamic arcuate nucleus with a focus on anorexic excitatory neurons. J Physiol, 597(6):1605-1625. PubMed
Han W, Tellex LA, Rangel MJ, Motta SC, Zhang X, Perez IO, Canteras NS, Shammah-Lagnado SJ, van den Pol AN, de Araujo IE (2017).  Integrated control of predatory hunting by central nucleus of the amygdala. Cell, 168(1): 311-324. PubMed
Zhang X, van den Pol AN (2017). Rapid binge-like eating and body weight gain driven by zona incerta GABA neuron activation. Science, 356(6340):853-859. PubMed
Blanco-Centurion C, Liu M, Konadhode RP, Zhang X, Pelluru D, van den Pol AN, Shiromani PJ (2016). Optogenetic activation of melanin-concentrating hormone neurons increases non-rapid eye movement and rapid eye movement sleep during the night in rats.. Eur J Neurosci, 44(10):2846-2857. PubMed
Han W, Tellez LA, Niu J, Medina S, Ferreira TL, Zhang X, Su J, Tong J, Schwartz GJ, van den Pol A, de Araujo IE (2016). Striatal Dopamine Links Gastrointestinal Rerouting to Altered Sweet Appetite. Cell Metab, 23(1):103-12. PubMed
Tellez LA, Han W, Zhang X, Ferreira TL, Perez IO, Shammah-Lagnado SJ, van den Pol AN, de Araujo IE. (2016). Separate circuitries encode the hedonic and nutritional values of sugar. Nat Neurosci, 19(3):465-70. PubMed
Zhang X, van den Pol AN (2016). Hypothalamic arcuate nucleus tyrosine hydroxylase neurons play orexigenic role in energy homeostasis. Nat Neurosci, 19(10):1341-7. PubMed

Lab Website

Neuro Grads and Postdocs

Harley Beach, Graduate Student

Samantha Hatcher, Graduate Student

Qiying Ye, Graduate Student

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