Dr. Denise Cai

Dr. Denise Cai


Ebbe Ebbesen, PhD
Computational modeling of rape and assault trials
Sara Mednick, PhD; Stephan Anagnostaras, PhD; Michael Gorman
Sleep-dependent memory consolidation in humans and mice



Alcino Silva, PhD
Temporal memory-linking and development of open-source tools


About me:

The goal of my research is to understand how memories are stored and updated across time and experience. I investigate the neural mechanisms governing these complex processes with a multi-level approach, combining cellular, systems, and behavioral techniques.

In a first line of inquiry, we are building on my novel characterization of the role of intrinsic neuronal excitability in the linking of memories across time in young and older mice (Cai et al., Nature, 2016). In collaboration with Sara Mednick, PhD, we also showed the first human behavioral evidence for temporal memory-linking (Yetton et al., Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2019). Memory-linking is particularly important in the context of such disorders as PTSD, as alterations in memory-linking could have severe consequences for cognition. The Cai lab recently published three papers on related themes (Mau et al., eLife, 2020; Sweis et al., Current Opinion in Neurobiology; Chen L, et al., 2020 Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 2020). An associated line of inquiry explores the how memories are stabilized and integrated with past experiences during sleep.

In a second line of investigation, we are exploring the mechanisms by which the brain optimizes its capacity to store information across a lifetime. These studies are supported by an NIH Director Innovator’s Award.

My lab also develops and disseminates open-source neurotechnology. I am one of the primary developers of the open-source Miniscopes for in vivo calcium imaging (Cai et al., Nature, 2016; Shuman et al., 2020). We recently published a pipeline for behavior tracking (ezTrack) and a miniscope analysis pipeline (Pennington et al., Science Reports, 2019; Dong, et al., bioRxiv, 2021, Pennington et al., Current Protocols, in press). In collaboration with others at Mount Sinai and other institutions, we continue to develop new imaging tools and related software to be openly shared with the larger neuroscience community.