Keith B. Hengen, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Neurosciences Program
Computational and Systems Biology Program
Molecular Cell Biology Program

  • 314 935-4711

  • 1137

  • Monsanto Laboratory, Dept. of Biology, One Brookings Drive




  • Homeostatic plasticity, behavior, disease, self-organization, emergence, learning, computational

  • We take a "big data" approach to understanding the self-organization of neurons and networks in behaving animals.

Research Abstract:

The research goal of the Hengen laboratory is rooted in the homeostatic self-organization of intact neural networks and how appropriate information transmission in these systems is established during development and disrupted in disease. We would like to understand how individual neurons come together and give rise to sensation, perception, and cognition, and how plasticity mechanisms can shape and then stabilize these same phenomena. Ultimately, this line of questioning has the power to reveal the causal relationship between cellular mechanisms, emergent topologies, and animal behavior. Our work calls on in vivo neurophysiology, animal behavior, molecular biology, genetics, and computational methods. We are striving to embrace and propel a dramatic shift towards big-data, computer science, and efficient, high resolution studies of neuronal processes in freely behaving animals. In the laboratory, we are developing new approaches to record continuously from thousands of single neurons in the intact brain for months. By combining these tools with genetic perturbation of specific plasticity mechanisms, we hope to truly understand how behavior, perception, and cognition are built and stabilized.

Selected Publications:

Hengen KB, Torrado Pacheco A, McGregor JN, Van Hooser SD, Turrigiano GG (2016). Neuronal firing rate homeostasis is inhibited by sleep and promoted by wake. Cell, 2016 Mar 24;165(1):180-91.

Hengen KB, Nelson NR, Stang KM, Johnson SM, Smith SM, Watters JJ, Mitchell GS, Behan M (2015). Daily isoflurane exposure increases barbiturate insensitivity in medullary respiratory and cortical neurons via expression of ε-subunit containing GABAARs. PLoS ONE, 10(3):e0119351. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0119351.

Hengen KB, Lambo ME, Van Hooser SD, Katz DB, Turrigiano GG (2013). Firing rate homeostasis in visual cortex of freely behaving rodents. Neuron 80(2):335-42.

Hengen KB, Nelson NR, Stang KM, Johnson SM, Crader SM, Watters JJ, Behan M (2012). Increased GABAA­­­ Receptor ε-Subunit Expression on Ventral Respiratory Column Neurons Protects Breathing during Pregnancy. PLoS ONE 7(1): e30608. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0030608

Hengen KB, Gomez TM, Stang KM, Johnson SM, Behan M (2011). Changes in ventral respiratory column GABAA e and d subunits during hibernation mediate resistance to depression by ETOH and pentobarbital. Am J Physiol Regul Integ Comp Physiol. 300:R272-R283.

Hengen KB, Behan M, Carey HV, Jones MV, Johnson SM (2009). Hibernation induces pentobarbital insensitivity in medulla but not cortex. Am J Physiol Regul Integ Comp Physiol. 297: R1028–R1036.

Last Updated: 8/14/2017 9:37:47 AM

Cortical neurons (left) are responsible for amazingly complex phenomena, from vision to movement to introspection. In order to begin understanding the processing rules that make these phenomena possible, we use extracellular recordings and other techniques to follow the activity of many cells in the brains of freely behaving animals. (right) In vivo recordings generate large datasets that are best approached algorithmically. Depicted is an example of high dimensional clustering, a computational approach to sorting large datasets into separable groups, each of which may represent an individual neuron. The times of these spikes can then be related to those of other neurons, stimuli, internal events, and to animal behavior.
Back To Top

Follow us: