Henry Yin

Henry Yin

Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

External Address: 
GSRB II Rm 3012, Box 91050, Durham, NC 27708
Internal Office Address: 
GSRB II, Box 91050, Durham, NC 27708-0086


I am interested in understanding the neural mechanisms underlying goal-directed actions. For the first time in history, advances in psychology and neurobiology have made it feasible to pursue the detailed neural mechanisms underlying goal-directed and voluntary actions--how they are driven by the needs and desires of the organism and controlled by cognitive processes that provide a rich representation of the self and the world. My approach to this problem is highly integrative, combining behavioral analysis with electrophysiological techniques as well as tools from molecular biology. In the near future three techniques will be emphasized. 1) Dissecting reward-guided behavior using analytical behavioral assays. 2) In vivo recording from cerebral cortex, thalamus, midbrain, and basal ganglia in awake behaving rodents. Up to hundreds of neurons can be recorded from multiple brain areas that form a functional neural network in a single animal. 3) In vitro (and ex vivo) whole-cell patch-clamp recording in brain slices, with the aid of genetic tools for visualization of distinct neuronal populations. Ultimately, I hope to characterize goal-directed actions at multiple levels of analysis--from molecules to neural networks. This knowledge will provide us with insight into various pathological conditions characterized by impaired goal-directed behaviors, such as drug addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Parkinson's disease, and Huntington's disease.

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., University of California - Los Angeles 2004

Selected Grants

The role of parafascicular thalamic circuits in action generation awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2021 to 2026

Neural Circuit Control of Postnatal Quiescent Neural Stem Cell Activation awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2014 to 2025

Neurobiology Training Program awarded by National Institutes of Health (Mentor). 2019 to 2024

Striatal Microcircuit Drivers of Adaptive Learning in Habit Formation awarded by National Institutes of Health (Co Investigator). 2018 to 2023

Genes, Neural Circuits, and Behavior awarded by University of Tennessee Health Science Center (Principal Investigator). 2019 to 2023

Heat Shock Factors and Protein Misfolding Disease awarded by National Institutes of Health (Collaborator). 2018 to 2023

Dissecting Striatal Micro-circuits Underlying Goal Pursuit awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2017 to 2022

The Role of Opponent Basal Ganglia Outputs in Behavior awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2017 to 2021

Dissecting basal ganglia circuit mechanisms underlying instrumental learning awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2016 to 2021


Yin, H. H. “Restoring purpose in behavior.” Computational and Robotic Models of the Hierarchical Organization of Behavior, vol. 9783642398759, 2013, pp. 319–47. Scopus, doi:10.1007/978-3-642-39875-9_14. Full Text

Yin, H. H., and B. J. Knowlton. “Addiction and learning in the brain.” Handbook of Implicit Cognition and Addiction, 2005, pp. 167–84. Scopus, doi:10.4135/9781412976237.n12. Full Text

Li, Haofang E., et al. “Hypothalamic-Extended Amygdala Circuit Regulates Temporal Discounting.The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience, vol. 41, no. 9, Mar. 2021, pp. 1928–40. Epmc, doi:10.1523/jneurosci.1836-20.2020. Full Text

Watson, Glenn D. R., et al. “Thalamic projections to the subthalamic nucleus contribute to movement initiation and rescue of parkinsonian symptoms.Science Advances, vol. 7, no. 6, Feb. 2021. Epmc, doi:10.1126/sciadv.abe9192. Full Text

Lusk, Nicholas, et al. “Mediodorsal Thalamus Contributes to the Timing of Instrumental Actions.The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience, vol. 40, no. 33, Aug. 2020, pp. 6379–88. Epmc, doi:10.1523/jneurosci.0695-20.2020. Full Text

Hughes, Ryan N., et al. “Ventral Tegmental Dopamine Neurons Control the Impulse Vector during Motivated Behavior.Current Biology : Cb, vol. 30, no. 14, July 2020, pp. 2681-2694.e5. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2020.05.003. Full Text

Kim, Il Hwan, et al. “Dysregulation of the Synaptic Cytoskeleton in the PFC Drives Neural Circuit Pathology, Leading to Social Dysfunction.Cell Reports, vol. 32, no. 4, July 2020, p. 107965. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2020.107965. Full Text

Bakhurin, Konstantin I., et al. “Opponent regulation of action performance and timing by striatonigral and striatopallidal pathways.Elife, vol. 9, Apr. 2020. Epmc, doi:10.7554/elife.54831. Full Text

Hughes, Ryan N., et al. “A Head-Fixation System for Continuous Monitoring of Force Generated During Behavior.Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, vol. 14, Jan. 2020, p. 11. Epmc, doi:10.3389/fnint.2020.00011. Full Text

Hughes, Ryan N., et al. “Precise Coordination of Three-Dimensional Rotational Kinematics by Ventral Tegmental Area GABAergic Neurons.Current Biology : Cb, vol. 29, no. 19, Oct. 2019, pp. 3244-3255.e4. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2019.08.022. Full Text

Yang, Rui, et al. “ANK2 autism mutation targeting giant ankyrin-B promotes axon branching and ectopic connectivity.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, vol. 116, no. 30, July 2019, pp. 15262–71. Pubmed, doi:10.1073/pnas.1904348116. Full Text

Kim, Namsoo, et al. “A striatal interneuron circuit for continuous target pursuit.Nat Commun, vol. 10, no. 1, June 2019, p. 2715. Pubmed, doi:10.1038/s41467-019-10716-w. Full Text


Yin, H. H., et al. “From habits to actions: Dorsolateral striatum lesions alter the content of learning.” Iconip 2002  Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Neural Information Processing: Computational Intelligence for the E Age, vol. 3, 2002, pp. 1579–81. Scopus, doi:10.1109/ICONIP.2002.1202887. Full Text