A portrait of Gloria Choi

Gloria Choi

Mark Hyman Jr. Career Development Associate Professor, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Investigator in The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Contact Info

Office: 46-5023
Website: Choi Lab

Administrative Assistant

Natalie Soares (Lab Manager)

Choi’s lab studies the interaction of the immune system with the brain and the effects of that interaction on neurodevelopment, behavior and mood. For example, she is particularly interested in learning how cytokines, families of proteins that immune cells use to communicate, may act as neuromodulators that influence the development and activity of neurons in the cortex.

With this focus, Choi’s team has published several key insights that help explain how the maternal microbiome and immune activation during pregnancy can elevate the risk of offspring developing neurodevelopmental disorders.

In a 2016 paper in Science, Choi and collaborators showed in a mouse model of maternal immune activation that a particular type of T lymphocyte immune cell and its secretion of the cytokine interleukin-17a (IL-17a), mediated maternal immune activation and the development of autism-like behavioral abnormalities in offspring. The collaboration then followed with two papers in Nature in September 2017. One showed the phenomenon was further mediated by the presence of maternal intestinal bacteria that promote T cell differentiation.  The other showed that the effect of IL-17a in the brain was focused in the S1DZ region of the cortex where they observed a deficit of neural inhibition. The team showed that by intervening to reduce excess neural activity, they could mitigate behavioral abnormalities associated with maternal infection.

Motivated by those findings, Choi’s long-term translational goal is to develop ways to assess the risk for individual patients, prevent the development of disease, and mitigate it post-development. Also, because her research has identified the S1DZ region of the cortex, which is hypothesized to be important for proprioception, as being particularly crucial, she is also studying the connection between proprioception and social behavior.

In earlier work Choi’s lab studied how sensory stimuli, such as smells, drive behavioral responses and internal states depending on past experience.

Choi joined the faculty of MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences in 2013 and the Picower Institute in 2019. She received her bachelor’s degree from University of California, Berkeley, and her Ph.D. from Caltech, where she studied with David Anderson. She was a postdoctoral research scientist in the laboratory of Richard Axel at Columbia University.

2014  Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow

2014  Cell ‘s 40 under 40

2015  The Samuel A. Goldblith Career Development Professorship

2017  NARSAD Independent Investigator Award

2018  The Peter Gruss Young Investigator Award

2019  Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation (NLMFF) Career Development Award

2021  Mark Hyman, Jr. Career Development Professorship

2021  Carol and Gene Ludwig Award for Early Career Research

Featured publications are below. For a full list visit the lab website linked above.

March 31, 2021
Jeong-Tae Kwon, Changhyeon Ryu, Hyeseung Lee, Alec Sheffield, Jingxuan Fan, Daniel H. Cho, Shivani Bigler, Heather A. Sullivan, Han Kyung Choe, Ian R. Wickersham, Myriam Heiman & Gloria B. Choi. Nature (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03413-6
December 18, 2019
Michael Douglas Reed, Yeong Shin Yim, Ralf D. Wimmer, Hyunju Kim, Changhyeon Ryu, Gwyneth Margaret Welch, Matias Andina, Hunter Oren King, Ari Waisman, Michael M. Halassa, Jun R. Huh & Gloria B. Choi. Nature 577, 249–253 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1843-6.

Editorial: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092867420303883
May 16, 2018
Shaffer, E.S., Stettler, D.D., Kato, D., Choi, G.B., Axel, R. and Abbot, L.F. (2018). Neuron. 98(4):736-742. PMID:29706585.
September 28, 2017
Yim, Y.S., Park, A., Berrios, J., Pascual, L., Soares, N., Kim, J.Y., Kim, S., Kim, H., Waisman, A., Littman, D., Harnett, M.T., Wickersham, I.R., Huh, J.R, Nature. 549(7673):482-487.

Nature News & Views: https://www.nature.com/articles/549131b
September 13, 2017
Sangdoo Kim, Hyunju Kim, Yeong Shin Yim, Soyoung Ha, Koji Atarashi, Tze Guan Tan, Randy S. Longman, Kenya Honda, Dan R. Littman, Gloria B. Choi & Jun R. Huh, Nature. 549(7673):528-532.

Nature News & Views: https://www.nature.com/articles/nature24139

'What Were you Thinking?'

September 20, 2021
Research Feature
How brain circuits integrate many sources of context to flexibly guide behavior

Mice naturally engage in physical distancing, study finds

March 31, 2021
Research Findings
MIT neuroscientists have identified a brain circuit that stops mice from mating with others that appear to be sick

How could Covid-19 and the body’s immune response affect the brain?

April 21, 2020
Research Feature
Picower Institute researchers are embarking on experiments to learn the mechanisms by which coronavirus might affect mental health

Study may explain how infections reduce autism symptoms

December 18, 2019
Research Findings
An immune molecule sometimes produced during infection can influence the social behavior of mice.

Neuroscientists look to the body to better understand the brain

July 1, 2019
News Feature
Studies yield new insights into behavior, development, anesthesia

New faculty member studies immune system effect on the brain

February 20, 2019
Picower People
Gloria Choi's research has connected maternal infection with neurodevelopmental disorders

Studies help explain link between autism, severe infection during pregnancy

September 13, 2017
Research findings
Bacterial populations in mother’s GI tract may play a central role.

How severe maternal inflammation can lead to autism-like behavior

January 28, 2016
Research findings
Immune molecules in infected mothers tied to brain and behavior abnormalities in offspring.

Diversity Statement: The Choi Lab is committed to developing a climate that acknowledges and embraces diversity, supporting a culture that fosters inclusion, and actively pursuing equity. We believe that welcoming differences of opinion, experience, identity, and perspectives helps build a stronger community. We are committed to supporting those affected by historical injustices and to participating in outreach, mentorship, recruitment and upholding a progressive departmental Strategic Plan for people of all marginalized and disadvantaged backgrounds.

 

Matias Andina

Laboratory Technician

mandina@mit.edu

 

Daniel Cho

Graduate Student

danielhc@mit.edu

 

Mengyang Feng, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

myfeng@mit.edu

 

Tomoe Ishikawa, Ph.D

Postdoctoral Fellow

ishikawa@mit.edu

 

Jeong Tae Kwon, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

jtkwon@mit.edu

 

Byeongjun Lee, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

bj1ee@mit.edu

 

Irene Davila Mejia

Laboratory Technician

idavilam@mit.edu

 

Changhyeon Ryu, MD-Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

ryuc@mit.edu

 

Natalie Soares

Laboratory Manager

nsoares@mit.edu

 

Liu Yang, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

willow66@mit.edu

 

Yasmin Yarden, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

yasminya@mit.edu


Xiaoying Zhang

Laboratory Technician

xyz2272@mit.edu


Former Lab Members:

Nora Benavidez – Graduate Student, USC

Shivani Bigler -Graduate Student, Columbia University

Han Kyoung Choe – PI, DGIST

Jingxuan Fan -- Graduate Student, Harvard

Joo Yeon Kim - Director, CNS division, Standigm Inc.

Hunter King – Graduate Student, MIT

Daniel Montgomery – Graduate Student, MIT

Ashley Park – Medical Student, University of Michigan

Leila May Pascual – Laboratory Technician , Brandeis University

Michael Reed – Research Scientist, Biogen

Keenan Ronayne – Laboratory Technician, Washington University in St. Louis

Alec Sheffield – Graduate Student, Yale University

Yeong Shin Yim, Ph.D. - PI, University of Pennsylvania Medical School