Keith B. Hengen, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Neurosciences Program
Computational and Systems Biology Program
Molecular Cell Biology Program

  • 314 935-4711

  • Bayer Laboratory of the Life Sciences, Dept. of Biology, One Brookings Drive




  • Homeostatic plasticity, behavior, neurodegeneration, self-organization, emergence, learning, computational, computation, modeling

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

Research Abstract:

Our research is divided into two separate but related streams. The first
goal is to understand how neural networks generate reliable function,
cognition, and behavior. We seek to address the following questions: do
networks of neurons self-organize to an optimal computational regime?
What are the genes, cell-types, and mechanisms that, when distributed in
a large network, promote stable computation? How does behavior
influence the expression of these mechanisms? Do the latent spaces
underlying network dynamics change with time? and, how do individual
neurons contribute to complex and variable behavior across a lifetime?

parallel, we are exploring systems-level explanations of neurological
disease. At the root of any disease is a failure of stabilizing
mechanisms to assert healthy patterns. Traditionally, these failures are
viewed through a highly reductionist lens: genes and proteins are the
usual suspects. However, these explanations have little space for the
role of environment and experience. We are combining theoretical
physics, applied math, and systems biology to test novel explanations
and interventions in neurodegeneration and psychiatric disorders.

Mentorship and Commitment to Diversity Statement:

Selected Publications:

Azabou M, Gheshlaghi Azar M, Liu R, Lin CH, Johnson EC, Bhaskaran-Nair K, Dabagia M, Hengen K, Gray-Roncal W, Valko M, Dyer E. Mine Your Own vieW:Self-Supervised Learning Through Across-Sample Prediction.

Wu YK, Hengen KB, Turrigiano GG, Gjorgjieva J (2020). Homeostatic Mechanisms Regulate Distinct Aspects of Cortical Circuit Dynamics. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.  201918368; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1918368117

Tatavarty V, Torrado Pacheco A, Groves Kuhnle C, Lin H, Koundinya P, Miska NJ, Hengen KB, Wagner FF, Van Hooser SD, Turrigiano GG (2020). Autism-Associated Shank3 Is Essential for Homeostatic Compensation in Rodent V1. Neuron. 106(5):769-777.

Brunwasser SJ, Hengen KB. (2020). Currently unstable: daily ups and downs in E-I balance. Neuron. 2020 Feb 19; 105 (4): 589-91. Invited review.

Ma Z, Turrigiano GG, Wessel R, Hengen KB*. (2019). Cortical Circuit Dynamics Are Homeostatically Tuned to Criticality In Vivo. Neuron. 104(4):655-664. (Cover Story) *corresponding author

Torrado Pacheco A, Tilden EI, Gruztner SM, Lane B, Wu Y, Hengen KB, Gjorgjieva J, Turrigiano GG, (2019). Rapid and Active Stabilization of Visual Cortical Firing Rates Across Light-Dark Transitions. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 116(36),pii: 201906595.

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. (Cover story).

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 [*selected by Faculty of 1000 as part of the library of the top 2% of published articles in biology and medicine]

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.

Kahan TA, Hengen KB, Mathis KM (2010). An examination of orthographic and phonological processing using the task-choice procedure. Language and Cognitive Processes, 1464-0732, 12 May, 2010.

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: 3/26/2021 1:03:26 PM

Cortical neurons (left) are responsible for 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.
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