Headshot photo of Tianyi Mao, Ph.D.

Tianyi Mao, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor, Vollum Institute
  • Scientist, Vollum Institute
  • Neuroscience Graduate Program, School of Medicine
  • M.D./Ph.D. Program Committee, School of Medicine


Tianyi Mao is a scientist in the Vollum Institute at OHSU. After earning her B.S. in Biological Science and Biotechnology at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China in 1997, she received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 2005. She did postdoctoral research at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and then at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Farm Research Campus. Dr. Mao joined the Vollum Institute in 2010 and was promoted to scientist in 2017.

The research mission of the Mao Lab is to examine the functional connectivity within basal ganglia and its interaction with cerebral cortex and thalamus. The basal ganglia are critical for many fundamental brain functions, such as movement control and decision-making. Dysfunction of the basal ganglia contributes to the pathophysiology of many neurodegenerative diseases, most notably Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

Education and training

  • Degrees

    • B.S., 1997, Tsinghua University
    • Ph.D., 2005, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Areas of interest

  • basal ganglia circuit analysis
  • cortical-subcortical interactions
  • optogenetics
  • genetically engineered calcium indicators
  • two-photon calcium imaging


Selected publications

  • Jongbloets BC, Ma L, Mao T, Zhong H. (2019) Visualizing Protein Kinase A activity in head-fixed behaving mice using in vivo two-photon fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy. J. Vis. Exp. Jun 7; (148) doi: 10.3791/59526.
  • Birdsong WT, Jongbloets BC, Engeln KA, Wang D, Scherrer G, Mao T. (2019) Synapse-specific opioid modulation of thalamo-cortico-striatal circuits. Elife 8:e45146.
  • Ma L, Jongbloets BC, Xiong WH, Melander JB, Qin M, Lameyer TJ, Harrison MF, Zemelman BV, Mao T*, Zhong H*. (2018) A highly sensitive A-kinase activity reporter for imaging neuromodulatory events in awake mice. Neuron 99:665-679.e5. *Co-senior authorship
  • Hunnicutt BJ, Jongbloets BC, Birdsong WT, Gertz KJ, Zhong H, Mao T. (2016) A comprehensive excitatory input map of the striatum reveals novel functional organization. Elife 5:e19103.
  • Fortin DA, Tillo SE, Yang G, Rah JC, Melander JB, Bai S, Soler-Cedeño O, Qin M, Zemelman BV, Guo C, Mao T*, Zhong H*. (2014) Live imaging of endogenous PSD-95 using ENABLED: a conditional strategy to fluorescently label endogenous proteins. J. Neurosci. 34:16698-16712. *Co-senior authorship
  • Hunnicutt BJ, Long BR, Kusefoglu D, Gertz KJ, Zhong H*, Mao T*. (2014) A comprehensive thalamocortical projection map at the mesoscopic level. Nature Neurosci. 17:1276-1285. *Co-senior authorship
  • Mao T, Kusefoglu D, Hooks BM, Huber D, Petreanu L, Svoboda K. (2011) Long-range neuronal circuits underlying the interaction between sensory and motor cortex. Neuron 72:111-123.
  • Tian L, Hires SA, Mao T, Huber D, Chiappe ME, Chalasani SH, Petreanu L, Akerboom J, McKinney SA, Schreiter ER, Bargmann CI, Jayaraman V, Svoboda K, Looger LL. (2009) Imaging neural activity in worms, flies and mice with improved GCaMP calcium indicators. Nature Methods 12:875-881. 
  • Petreanu L, Mao T, Sternson SM, Svoboda K. (2009) The subcellular organization of neocortical excitatory connections. Nature 457:1142-1145.
  • Mao T, O'Connor DH, Scheuss V, Nakai J, Svoboda K. (2008) Characterization and subcellular targeting of GCaMP-type genetically-encoded calcium indicators. PLoS One 3:e1796.