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  • Ming Gao, MD, PhD

    Assistant Professor

    Ming Gao, MD, PhD, is a assistant professor at Barrow Neurological Institute.

    Dr. Gao received his medical degree from Jining Medical College and his doctorate in neuroscience from the Shangai Institute of Meteria Medica, both in China. He completed three postdoctoral fellowships in neuroscience – one at John Hopkins University, one at the University of Maryland, and one at Barrow Neurological Institute.

    Dr. Gao’s research is mainly focused on mechanisms of the midbrain dopamine system in normal functions, as well as in various neuropsychiatric and neurological diseases.  He uses a variety of electrophysiological methods in both in vitro and in vivo preparations to study the synaptic plasticity, pharmacology, and reward pathway in the mesocorticolimbic dopaminergic circuit of the brain. As a fellow, he expanded his research to include the homeostatic synaptic plasticity in the visual cortex of the brain.

    Dr. Gao also studies the underlying mechanism of type 2 cannabinoid receptors in the brain as they pertain to the regulation of neuronal excitability, along with its potential therapeutic effects in drug addiction and schizophrenia. He also conducts research on nicotinic subunits α5, α6, and α7 (among others) in nicotine and ethanol addiction in the midbrain dopamine system.

    Dr. Gao is a member of the Society for Neuroscience.

    Education & Training
    • Postdoctoral Fellowship, Johns Hopkins University, Neuroscience, 2011-2012
    • Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Maryland, Neuroscience, 2008-2011
    • Postdoctoral Fellowship, Barrow Neurological Institute, Neuroscience, 2007-2008
    • PhD, Shanghai Institute of Meteria Medica, Neuroscience, 2007
    • MS, Tongji Medical College, Pharmacology, 2003
    • MD, Jining Medical College, 2000
    Professional Memberships
    • Society for Neuroscience
    Selected Publications
    1. Zhang HY, Gao M, Liu QR, Bi GH, Li X, Yang HJ, Gardner EL, Wu J, Xi ZX. Cannabinoid CB2 receptors modulate midbrain dopamine neuronal activity and dopamine-related behavior in mice. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Nov 18 2014;111(46):E5007-5015.
    2. Wu J, Gao M, Taylor DH. Neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors are important targets for alcohol reward and dependence. Acta Pharmacol Sin. Mar 2014;35(3):311-315.
    3. Gao M, Maynard KR, Chokshi V, Song L, Jacobs C, Wang H, Tran T, Martinowich K, Lee HK. Rebound potentiation of inhibition in juvenile visual cortex requires vision-induced BDNF expression. J Neurosci. Aug 6 2014;34(32):10770-10779.
    4. Wu J, Gao M, Shen JX, Shi WX, Oster AM, Gutkin BS. Cortical control of VTA function and influence on nicotine reward. Biochem Pharmacol. Oct 15 2013;86(8):1173-1180.
    5. Zhang D, Gao M, Xu D, Shi WX, Gutkin BS, Steffensen SC, Lukas RJ, Wu J. Impact of prefrontal cortex in nicotine-induced excitation of ventral tegmental area dopamine neurons in anesthetized rats. J Neurosci. Sep 5 2012;32(36):12366-12375.
    6. Liu CL, Gao M, Jin GZ, Zhen X. GABA neurons in the ventral tegmental area responding to peripheral sensory input. PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e51507.
    7. Gao M, Chu HY, Jin GZ, Zhang ZJ, Wu J, Zhen XC. l-Stepholidine-induced excitation of dopamine neurons in rat ventral tegmental area is associated with its 5-HT(1A) receptor partial agonistic activity. Synapse. May 2011;65(5):379-387.
    8. Gao M, Sossa K, Song L, Errington L, Cummings L, Hwang H, Kuhl D, Worley P, Lee HK. A specific requirement of Arc/Arg3.1 for visual experience-induced homeostatic synaptic plasticity in mouse primary visual cortex. J Neurosci. May 26 2010;30(21):7168-7178.
    9. Gao M, Jin Y, Yang K, Zhang D, Lukas RJ, Wu J. Mechanisms involved in systemic nicotine-induced glutamatergic synaptic plasticity on dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area. J Neurosci. Oct 13 2010;30(41):13814-13825.
    10. Gao M, Liu CL, Yang S, Jin GZ, Bunney BS, Shi WX. Functional coupling between the prefrontal cortex and dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area. J Neurosci. May 16 2007;27(20):5414-5421.

    About Barrow Neurological Institute

    Since our doors opened as a regional specialty center in 1962, we have grown into one of the premier destinations in the world for neurology and neurosurgery. Our experienced, highly skilled, and comprehensive team of neurological specialists can provide you with a complete spectrum of care–from diagnosis through outpatient neurorehabilitation–under one roof. Barrow Neurological Institute: Discover. Educate. Heal.