Functional and molecular neuroimaging

The Chuang laboratory focuses on understanding the functional connectome of the brain. The brain connectome describes how neurons are wired and interact. It is a critical component for linking behaviour with cellular and molecular changes. Many neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders show deficits in specific brain networks, suggesting that disease connectomes may underlie disease progression.

The laboratory is developing functional and molecular imaging to understand the functional connectivity that underlies behaviour and how diseases lead to impairment of the brain network. Identifying disease-specific patterns of brain activity and connectivity as biomarkers could improve the characterisation of diseases and their progress; the Chuang group aims to facilitate early and specific diagnosis, optimise treatment and develop drug therapeutics. 

To determine brain connectivity associated with behaviour, the Chuang group developed various magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to track neuronal connections, map large-scale brain synchrony, quantify cerebral blood flow and metabolism in vivo in the rodent brain. They identified ongoing synchronous activity following a memory task and found that connectivity patterns reorganised toward the cortex over time, in line with current understanding of memory consolidation. The connectivity and behaviour performance can be enhanced by Aricept®, a drug for treating dementia.

To pinpoint the relationship between the functional connectome and memory performance, the group is developing and combining multiple techniques for mapping neural metabolism (eg, dynamic nuclear polarization and chemical exchange saturation transfer), neuromodulation (eg, optogenetics, DREADD) and neural recording (calcium and electrophysiology) together with functional MRI and causal modelling to track and intervene behaviour and disorders, which would be translated in human.

Group leader

Associate Professor Kai-Hsiang Chuang

Associate Professor Kai-Hsiang Chuang

Group Leader, Functional and molecular neuroimaging

Principal Research Fellow - GL

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UQ Researcher Profile


Group Publications

  • Associate Professor Darryl Eyles, QBI, The University of Queensland
  • Professor Jürgen Götz, QBI, The University of Queensland
  • Professor Tianzi Jiang, QBI, The University of Queensland
  • Dr Fatima Nasrallah, QBI, The University of Queensland
  • Professor Linda J. Richards, QBI, The University of Queensland
  • Professor Pankaj Sah, QBI, The University of Queensland
  • Professor Elizabeth Coulson, QBI, School of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Queensland 
  • Dr Patricio Opazo, QBI, University of Queensland
  • Professor Feng Liu, School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, The University of Queensland
  • Professor Markus Barth, CAI, The University of Queensland

View all publications 

Project 1: Modulating learning and memory by targeting brain connectome


How memory is formed is one of the most intriguing questions in neuroscience. Recent studies suggest that memory is formed and stored in distributed brain connectivity. Our previous work showed that learning can induce long-lasting change in the spontaneous brain network detected by resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Furthermore, silencing specific network hub identified can impair memory formation. This project aims to further identify connectivity signature of memory formation so as to develop novel methods for improving memory. We will use advanced MRI, electrophysiology, optogenetics and calcium recording to pinpoint and verify functional connectivity changes in memory formation in animal models. Neuromodulation will be developed to target the connection to assess its behavioural effects on learning and memory. The outcomes will advance our understanding of memory and technologies for improving cognitive function.


Project 2:  Understand interplay between waste clearance, metabolism and brain connectivity in Alzheimer’s dementia


Neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia, are irreversible and generally incurable and hence early detection is essential so that interventions can be applied to slow down its progression. Abnormal brain networks that colocalized with early pathologies, such as amyloid plaque or tau tangle, in Alzheimer’s dementia (AD) have been identified. However, why specific brain networks are vulnerable remains unclear. We recently discovered a neural pathway could affect a major waste clearance pathway – the glymphatic system – in the brain, leading to the pathology of AD. We aim to further understand the relationship between brain network, metabolic waste and glymphatic function using human brain imaging data and test hypothesis in animal models. This translational study will provide new ways for improving brain function by facilitating waste clearance.

How to apply

Research areas

  • Functional and molecular imaging
  • Neural endophenotypes
  • Functional connectome in vivo
  • Neurodegeneration

Our team

Group Leader


Research Members

  • Dr Zengmin Li

    PhD Student & Casual Snr Research Technician & Postdoctoral Research Fellow/Res Of
    Queensland Brain Institute