Hey-Kyoung Lee, Ph.D.

  • Professor of Neuroscience

Research Interests

Cellular/molecular mechanisms of synaptic plasticity underlying memory formation and cross-modal plasticity ...read more


Dr. Hey-Kyoung Lee is an associate professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Her research focuses on the cellular and molecular changes that happen at synapses to allow memory storage. The goals of her research include elucidating the mechanisms underlying cross-modal synaptic plasticity and exposing the events that occur in diseased brains.

Dr. Lee received her undergraduate degree in biology from Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea. She earned her Ph.D. in neuroscience from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and completed postdoctoral training in neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Lee joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 2011.

Prior to joining Johns Hopkins, Dr. Lee was an associate professor at the University of Maryland.

She was awarded The Sloan Research Fellowship in 2004 and was nominated as one of the "Yonsei 100 Women Leaders" in 2006. In 2009, Dr. Lee was awarded the Junior Faculty Award from the College of Chemical and Life Sciences at the University of Maryland.

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  • Professor of Neuroscience

Departments / Divisions

Centers & Institutes



  • Ph.D.; Brown University (Rhode Island) (1997)
  • B.S.; Yonsei University (South Korea) (1992)

Research & Publications

Research Summary

Dr. Lee and her lab are exploring the cellular and molecular changes that happen at synapses to allow memory storage.

Combining various techniques such as electrophysiological recording, biochemical/molecular analysis, and imaging, Dr. Lee is aiming to understand the cellular and molecular changes that happen during synaptic plasticity. By using sensory cortices as model systems, Dr. Lee and her lab have found that loss of vision elicits global changes in excitatory synaptic transmission in the primary visual cortex, which is mainly due to regulation of postsynaptic AMPA type glutamate receptors. Vision loss also triggers specific synaptic changes in other primary sensory cortices, which Dr. Lee believes underlies sensory compensation in the blind. Elucidating the mechanisms underlying such cross-modal synaptic plasticity is a main research focus of the Lee lab.

In addition to understanding the basic mechanisms of how experience alters the brain, the Lee lab is also interested in elucidating the events that occur in diseased brains. In collaboration with Dr. Philip Wong at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Dr. Hyang-Sook Hoe at Georgetown University, Dr. Lee and her team are analyzing various mouse models of Alzheimer's disease, focusing in on the possible alterations in synaptic plasticity mechanisms.

Selected Publications

Huang S, Rozas C, Trevino M, Contreras J, Yang S, Song L, Yoshioka T, Lee H-K, and Kirkwood A. “Associative Hebbian synaptic plasticity in primate visual cortex.” Journal of Neuroscience. 2014 May 28;34 (22): 7575-7579. 2014.

Petrus E and Lee H-K. “BACE1 is necessary for experience-dependent homeostatic synaptic plasticity in visual cortex.” Neural Plasticity 2014: 128631.

Wang H, Megill A, Wong PC, Kirkwood A, and Lee H-K. “Postsynaptic target specific synaptic dysfunctions in the CA3 area of BACE1 knockout mice.” PLoS One. 2014 Mar 17;9 (30): e92279.

Petrus E*, Isaiah A*, Jones AP, Li D, Wang H, Lee H-K, and Kanold PO. “Cross-modal induction of thalamocortical potentiation leads to enhanced information processing in the auditory cortex.” Neuron. 2014 Feb 5;81: 664-673.

Whitt JL*, Petrus E*, and Lee H-K. “Experience-dependent homeostatic synaptic plasticity in neocortex.” Neuropharmacology 2014 Mar;78: 45-54. 2014.

Academic Affiliations & Courses

Graduate Program Affiliation

Neuroscience Graduate Program

The Program in Cell, Molecular, Developmental Biology, and Biophysics (CMBD Program)

Activities & Honors


  • Fellow, The Sloan Research Fellowship, 2004
  • Junior Faculty Award, University of Maryland, 2010
  • Nominee, Yonsei 100 Women Leaders, 2006

Videos & Media

Recent News Articles and Media Coverage

Seeing Less Helps the Brain Hear More, NPR (February 5, 2014)

Temporary Blindness Might Boost Hearing, Study Suggests, USA Today (February 6, 2014)

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