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

Administrative Assistant

Sophia Xu

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.

January 1, 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, Under Revision (2023). (* denotes equal contributions)
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.

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.

Sophia Xu, lab manager

Kyucheol Min, undergraduate