Research Group Lab Hall
Qing-Song Liu, PhD

Qing-Song Liu, PhD



  • Pharmacology and Toxicology

Contact Information

General Interests



PhD, Neurobiology, Beijing Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, 1994

Research Interests

Research in my laboratory focuses on understanding the molecular and neural circuit mechanisms that drive diverse pathological states, such as drug addiction, anxiety and depressive behavior.

Drugs of abuse such as cocaine and opioids stimulate the reward circuitry of the brain to produce reward and reinforcement. A key component of the reward circuit is the mesolimbic dopamine system that consists of dopamine projections from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) in the midbrain to the nucleus accumbens (NAc), prefrontal cortex (PFC) and other forebrain regions. Following repeated drug administration, adaptive cellular and molecular changes occur in these areas and translate into behavioral changes, which can produce intense drug craving and compulsive drug seeking. My lab uses a wide variety of experimental approaches – including slice and in vivo electrophysiology, optogenetics, fast-scan cyclic voltammetry, in vivo calcium imaging, and sophisticated behavioral paradigms such as drug self-administration – to identify mechanisms underlying the addictive properties of abused drugs, and to manipulate these molecular and circuit adaptations to prevent drug seeking. These studies may uncover new targets for therapeutic intervention in drug addiction.

Another major research goal in my lab is to study how the endocannabinoid system regulates anxiety- and depressive-like behaviors, and how manipulating endocannabinoid signaling can protect against the development of these behaviors, particularly in rodent models of chronic or acute stress. In particular, we have found that inhibitors of enzymes that degrade endocannabinoids can prevent the development of anxiety- and depressive-like behavior in mice. A key goal in my lab is to unravel the cell-type- and circuit-specific mechanisms whereby endocannabinoids exert these stress-buffering effects.

Similarly, we are studying the cell-type-specific mechanisms whereby endocannabinoid signaling contributes to addictive-like behavior. For example, my lab identified that, with chronic cocaine exposure, endocannabinoid signaling is recruited to suppress inhibitory tone onto VTA dopamine neurons, leading to dopamine neuron hyperexcitability. My lab continues to study how endocannabinoid signaling in distinct brain regions and cell types contributes to diverse behavioral states.


The lab is looking to recruit postdoctoral fellows and graduate students from broad areas.  I am highly supportive of the career development of postdocs and trainees and I encourage and support applications for fellowship grants (e.g. F awards) and research career development awards (e.g. K99/R00 awards). Funding is available for work on diverse projects, so an interested applicant could pick the project or topic they are most interested in.