A portrait of Linlin Fan from the shoulders up

Linlin Fan

Investigator in The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory
Assistant Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences

Contact Info

Email: lzfan@mit.edu
Website: Fan Lab

The ability of the brain to learn from and remember experiences lies at the heart of our existence and individuality.  Disorders of memory represent a huge challenge to society.  The goal of our lab is to decipher the neural codes underlying learning and memory and to identify the physical basis of learning and memory.  Our main questions are:

1. What are the learning rules of brain circuits? For instance, what kinds of activity trigger the encoding and storage of information?

2. How are the learning rules implemented? For instance, where is the information stored?

3. Ultimately can we infer the memories from mapping the neural functional connectivity patterns?


Addressing these questions requires understanding the language the brain uses to speak to itself, the little electrical impulses of neurons.  We have worked on developing and applying high-precision all-optical technologies for simultaneously mapping and controlling membrane potential in specific neurons within the intact brain.  We continue to develop and apply these cutting-edge technologies and integrate them with behavioral, molecular, and computational approaches to understand how the brain encodes, stores, and recalls information.


Linlin Fan joined the MIT and Picower Institute faculty in January 2024. Previously she worked as a postdoc in the lab of Karl Deisseroth at Stanford University. She earned her PhD at Harvard University in the lab of Adam Cohen after undergraduate studies at Peking University in China.

Burroughs Wellcome Career Award at the Scientific Interface, 2023

Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00), NIMH, 2023

Helen Hay Whitney Fellowship, Helen Hay Whitney Foundation, 2021

Larry Katz Memorial Lecture, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 2020

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

February 29, 2024
Dudok, B.*, Fan, L.Z.*, Farrell, J.S., Malhotra, S., Homidan, J., Kim, D.K., Wenardy, C., Ramakrishnan, C., Li, Y., Deisseroth, K., Soltesz, I., Science, Vol 383, Issue 6686, pp. 967-970, DOI: 10.1126/science.adk38
February 2, 2023
Fan, L.Z., Kim, D.K., Jennings, J.H., Tian, H., Wang, P.Y., Ramakrishnan, C., Randles, S., Sun, Y., Thadhani, E., Kim, Y.S., Quirin, S., Giocomo, L., Cohen, A.E., Deisseroth, K. (2023). Cell, 186(3), 543-559.
January 9, 2023
Tian, H., Davis, H.C., Wong-Campos, D.J., Park, P., Fan, L.Z., Gmeiner, B., Begum, S., Werley, C.A., Borja, G.B., Upadhyay, H., Shah, H., Jacques, J., Qi, Y., Parot, V.J., Deisseroth, K., Cohen, A.E. (2023). Nature Methods, 1-13.
February 6, 2020
Fan, L.Z., Kheifets, S., Böhm, U.L., Wu, H., Piatkevich, K.D., Xie, M.E., Parot, V.J., Ha, Y., Evans, K.E., Boyden, E.S., Takesian, A.E., Cohen, A.E. (2020). Cell, 180(3), 521-535.
October 1, 2018
Fan, L.Z., Nehme, R., Adam, Y., Jeung, E., Wu, H., Eggan, K., Arnold, D.B., Cohen, A.E. (2018). Nature Methods, 15(10), 823-831.

Fellowship enables study of how the brain makes memories of places

July 1, 2024
Picower People
With a new Klingenstein-Simons Fellowship in Neuroscience, Assistant Professor Linlin Fan will seek to strengthen understanding of how neural connections change to encode memories of specific locations.

Plasticity and place: Study shows a key neural mechanism of remembering locations

March 25, 2024
Research Findings
Scientists have now observed how the brain’s place cells stave off inhibitory input in the process of establishing their tuning to specific locations. The study shows that signaling by endocannabinoids is required.

Livestreaming the Brain

March 15, 2024
Research Feature
To learn how the brain works, Picower Institute labs are advancing technologies and methods to watch it live as it happens

New Picower Investigator advances optical methods to study learning and memory

January 2, 2024
Picower People
Assistant Professor Linlin Fan launches a lab to shine a finely focused, innovative spotlight on the neural basis of encoding knowledge.

Mitchell Daneker

Graduate student

Email: mitchell.daneker@yale.edu


Adrienne Kashay

Rotation Graduate Student

Email: aqkashay@mit.edu


Kyucheol Min


Email: mink202@mit.edu


Susan Hong


Email: suahong@mit.edu