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Sascha du Lac, M.D., Ph.D.

Photo of Dr. Sascha du Lac, M.D., Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery


Research Interests: Neuroplasticity; Systems Neuroscience; Vestibular System; Cerebellum; Eye Movements


Sascha du Lac, Ph.D. received her doctoral degree in Neurosciences from Stanford University.  As a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Physiology at the University of California, San Francisco, she established a multidisiciplinary research program to investigate mechanisms of experience-dependent plasticity at multiple levels of analysis from behavior through cellular neurophysiology and gene expression.  Prior to moving her laboratory to Johns Hopkins University in 2013, Dr. du Lac was an Associate Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla California and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.  Her laboratory in the JHU Center for Hearing and Balance studies signaling and plasticity in cerebellar, vestibular, and oculomotor circuits using multidisciplinary techniques in mice that include quantitative behavioral analyses, in vivo and in vitro electrophysiology and optogenetics, circuit tracing, and single cell gene expression profiling. more


  • Associate Professor of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
  • Associate Professor of Neurology
  • Associate Professor of Neuroscience

Departments / Divisions



  • B.A., University of Chicago (Illinois) (1982)
  • M.D., University of Saskatchewan - College of Medicine - Saskatoon - Saskatchewan (Canada) (1986)
  • Ph.D., Stanford University (California) (1989)

Research & Publications

Research Summary

The du Lac laboratory studies systems and cellular mechanisms of signaling and plasticity in cerebellar and brainstem circuits responsible for balance and eye movements.  Experimental strategies taking advantage of mouse molecular genetic tools include quantitative behavioral analyses, optogenetic manipulation of specific neuronal populations, in vivo and in vitro electrophysiology, circuit tracing, and single cell gene expression profiling.  Research into fundamental mechanisms of function, dysfunction, and plasticity in brainstem and cerebellar microcircuits aims to provide a foundation for improving clinical treatments of dizziness, balance disorders, and nystagmus.

Lab Website: Systems Neurobiology Laboratory

Selected Publications

View all on Pubmed

Kodama, T. Guerrero, S., Shin, M. Moghadam, S, Faulstich, M. and du Lac, S. Neuronal classification and marker gene identification via single-cell expression profiling of brainstem vestibular neurons subserving cerebellar learning. J. Neurosci. 32: 7819-7831, 2012.

Shin, M., Moghadam, S., Sekirnjak, C., Bagnall, M.W., Kolkman, K.E., Jacobs, R., Faulstich, M. and du Lac, S. Multiple types of cerebellar target neurons and their circuitry in the vestibulo-ocular reflex. J. Neurosci. 31: 10776-10786, 2011.

Kolkman, K.E., McElvain, L.E. and du Lac, S. Diverse precerebellar neurons share similar intrinsic excitability. J. Neurosci. 31: 16665-16674, 2011.

McElvain, L.E., Bagnall, M.W., Sakatos, A., and du Lac, S. Bidirectional plasticity gated by hyperpolarization controls the gain of postsynaptic firing responses at central vestibular nerve synapses. Neuron 68:763-75, 2010.

Gittis, A.H., Moghadam, S.H., and du Lac, S. Mechanisms of sustained high firing rates in two classes of vestibular nucleus neurons: differential contributions of resurgent Na, Kv3, and BK currents. J. Neurophysiol. 104: 1625-34, 2010.

Bagnall, M.B., Zingg, B., Sakatos, A., Moghadam, S.H., Zeilhofer, H.U., and du Lac, S. Glycinergic projection neurons of the cerebellum .J. Neurosci. 29: 10104-10110, 2009.

Bagnall, M.B., McElvain, L.E., Faulstich, M. and du Lac, S. Frequency-independent synaptic transmission supports a linear vestibular behavior. Neuron 60: 343-352, 2008.

Gittis, A.H. and du Lac, S. Firing properties of GABAergic vs non-GABAergic vestibular nucleus neurons conferred by a differential balance of potassium currents. J. Neurophysiol. 97: 3986-3996,

Bagnall, M.W., Stevens, R.J. and du Lac, S. Transgenic mouse lines subdivide medial vestibular nucleus neurons into discrete, neurochemically distinct populations. J. Neurosci. 27: 2318-2330, 2007. 2007.

Faulstich, M., van Alphen, AM., Luo, C., du Lac, S*., de Zeeuw, C.I. Oculomotor plasticity during vestibular compensation does not depend on cerebellar LTD. J. Neurophysiol. 96: 1187-95, 2006.

Sekirnjak, C. and du Lac, S. Physiological and anatomical properties of mouse medial vestibular nucleus neurons projecting to the oculomotor nucleus. J. Neurophysiol 95: 3012-23, 2006

Nelson, A.B., Gittis, A.H. and du Lac, S. Decreases in CaMKII activity trigger persistent potentiation of intrinsic excitability in spontaneously firing vestibular nucleus neurons. Neuron 46: 623-631, 2005

Faulstich, B.M., Onori, K.A., and du Lac, S. Comparison of plasticity and development of mouse optokinetic and vestibulo-ocular reflexes suggests differential gain control mechanisms. Vision Research 44: 3419-3428, 2004.

Nelson, A.B., Krispel, C., Moghadam, S., Sekirnjak, C., and du Lac, S. Long-lasting increases in intrinsic excitability triggered by inhibition. Neuron 40: 609-620, 2003.

Sekirnjak, C., Vissel, B., Bollinger, J., Faulstich, M. and du Lac, S. Cerebellar synapses target physiologically unique brainstem neurons. J. Neurosci. 23: 6392-6398, 2003.

Academic Affiliations & Courses

Graduate Program Affiliation

Neuroscience Graduate Program, Johns Hopkins University

Activities & Honors


  • Society for Neuroscience
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