University of Southern California

USC Neuroscience

Li I Zhang

Associate Professor
Dept. of Physiology & Biophysics
Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute
Keck School of Medicine of USC
PIBBS Mentor

Research Topics

  1. Synaptic circuitry mechanisms for sensory information processing
  2. Neural circuits for innate behavior
  3. Synaptic and cellular basis for development and plasticity of neural circuitry
  4. Neural circuitry basis for developmental or degenerative neurological diseases
  5. Cellular and molecular basis for functional development of mammlian cochlear

Research Overview

Our long-term goal is to understand the neural basis for the powerful computations that the cortex performs: in particular, how perception is generated, how behavior is controlled, how the cortex adapts in response to the environment during development, and how changes in cortical function result in neurological and psychiatric disease. With the belief that knowledge of detailed structure is a key to comprehending cortical functions, we focus on delineating the cortical synaptic circuitry to provide a structural basis for the cortical representation and processing of sensory information. In this project, using in vivo whole-cell recording and imaging techniques, and exploiting mouse molecular genetics, we will first determine how different types of sensory-driven synaptic inputs of individual cortical neurons are structured to achieve their specific laminar processing in the adult auditory cortex. Complimentarily, we will exploit functionally-mapped cortical slices to reveal the nature and pattern of individual neuronal connectivity underlying sensory-driven inputs. In addition, we will characterize the structure of functional synaptic circuits in developing auditory cortex. By correlating the specific developmental changes in cortical synaptic circuitry to those in cortical function, we hope to extract synaptic circuitry mechanisms for the maturation of cortical function, and elucidate the determinant structural factors for specific cortical functions. We think that these studies will shed light on synaptic basis of cortical computations, as well as cortical pathologies.

Contact Information

Web Site:
Mailing Address:
1501 San Pablo Street
ZNI 431
Los Angeles, CA 90033
Office Location:
ZNI 431
Office Phone:
(323) 442-4347
Lab Location:
ZNI406 & ZNI419
Lab Phone:
(323) 442-2145


  • Postdoc, University of California, San Francisco 2004
  • PhD, University of California, San Diego, 2000
  • MA, Columbia University, 1996
  • BS, Peking (Beijing) University, China, 1994

Research Images

Selected Publications

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Scaling down of balanced excitation and inhibition by active behavioral states in auditory cortex.

Zhou M, Liang F, Xiong XR, Li L, Li H, Xiao Z, Tao HW, Zhang LI.

Nat Neurosci. 2014 Apr 20.


Interaural level difference-dependent gain control and synaptic scaling underlying binaural computation.

Xiong XR, Liang F, Li H, Mesik L, Zhang KK, Polley DB, Tao HW, Xiao Z, Zhang LI.

Neuron. 2013 Aug 21;79(4):738-53.


Intracortical multiplication of thalamocortical signals in mouse auditory cortex.

Li LY, Li YT, Zhou M, Tao HW, Zhang LI.

Nat Neurosci. 2013 Sep;16(9):1179-81.


Preceding inhibition silences layer 6 neurons in auditory cortex.

Zhou Y, Liu BH, Wu GK, Kim YJ, Xiao Z, Tao HW, Zhang LI.

Neuron. 2010 Mar 11;65(5):706-17.


Fine-tuning of pre-balanced excitation and inhibition during auditory cortical development.

Sun YJ, Wu GK, Liu BH, Li P, Zhou M, Xiao Z, Tao HW, Zhang LI.

Nature. 2010 Jun 17;465(7300):927-31.