Bookmark and Share

Shaolin Liu M.D., Ph.D.

Academic Title: Assistant Professor
Primary Appointment: Anatomy and Neurobiology
Location: 20 Penn Street, HSF, Room 280E
Phone: (410) 706-1210
Lab: (410) 706-0746

Personal History:

I received my Ph.D in neurophamacology from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College in 1998. Thereafter I had two periods of postdoctoral training at Yale University and Case Western Reserve University until joining as a faculty member at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 2004. I am currently a member of the University of Maryland Graduate School, the Society for Neuroscience, the Association for Chemoreception Science.

Research Interests:

I have broad interest in the neuroscience with particular emphasis on cellular, synaptic and circuit mechanisms underlying sensory perception, motor control, learning and memory in both normal and pathological conditions. My current research focuses on how local circuits encode and transform sensory information in the olfactory system, an evolutionarily conservative sensory modality. My research uses the olfactory bulb (OB) as a model system as its major anatomical pathways from peripheral sensory neurons, second-order output neurons, to downstream cortical neurons are straightforward and relatively clear.

Functional Mechanisms Underlying the Intrabulbar Associational Circuit

The olfactory system is not only anatomically conservative among animal species but also functionally powerful in a sense of detecting and differentiating millions of odorant molecules existing in the environment and sometimes at extremely low concentration. This powerful sensation could be due to the diverse superfamily of odor receptors (ORs) expressing in the olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) and unique downstream neural circuits processing odor information. There are ~1200 functional ORs in rodents and ~400 in human. Each OSN expresses only one type of ORs. Interestingly, axons of OSNs expressing a given type of ORs project and converge onto one pair of spherical structures termed "mirror glomeruli" located on the medial and lateral side of each OB even though the corresponding OSN cell bodies are randomly distributed in the olfactory epithelium. The physiological significance of this organizational arrangement remains unclear. However, it has been known for decades that mirror glomeruli are anatomically interconnected by the intrabulbar associational circuit (IAC) derived from a subpopulation of OB neurons, which exclusively express the neuropeptide cholecystokinin (CCK). With CCK as a molecular biomarker to isolate the IAC, we will integrate optogenetics, chemogenetics, in vitro and in vivo electrophysiology, and behavioral approaches in this project to reveal the functional mechanisms underlying this CCKergic IAC at cellular, network and behavioral levels. The expected outcome will not only advance our understanding how olfactory circuits process odor information in the OB before being transmitted to downstream centers but also shed important light on the physiological function of mirror glomeruli organization.

Lab Techniques and Equipment:

We use a broad range experimental techniques in the laboratory.


In vitro: patch clamping recording in brain slices to measure synaptic transmission, neuronal excitability, ionic channel activity in cell type-specific neurons from gene-targeted GFP mice.

In vivo: single-unit and field potential recording in anesthetized and awake freely-moving animals. Whole cell patch clamp recording of synaptic and spiking activity from interested neurons in anesthetized rodents.

Opto- and chemogenetics

Optogenetics and chemogenetics are integrated with electrophysiology and behavioral approaches to characterize the anatomical and functional mechanisms underlying cell-type specific neural pathways and circuits.

Behavioral Approaches

Behavioral tasks including Buried Food Test and Two-bottle Odor Discrimination are used for measure animal’s ability and sensitivity of detecting odors.

Neuronal Anatomy and Histochemistry

Reconstructions of physiologically-characterized, biocytin or dye-filled  neurons; anterograde or retrograde tract tracing, immunohistochemistry

Grants and Contracts:

1R01DC014447-01A1 Liu (PI)
02/09/2016 - 01/31/2021
The overall goal of this project is to understand the functional operation of a fundamental and unique circuit linking the glomeruli receiving olfactory sensory neurons expressing the same odorant receptor in the olfactory bulb with multidisciplinary approaches at cellular, network and behavioral levels.
Total cost: $260,950/year
Role: PI

Positions Available:

A NIH-funded postdoctoral electrophysiologist position is immediately available in the department of anatomy and neurobiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine to study the functional mechanisms of neural circuits in the mouse olfactory system. This newly funded project aims to characterize the functional organization of a unique neural circuitry in the olfactory bulb at cellular, circuit and behavioral levels with cutting-edge multidisciplinary approaches. Major experimental approaches in the lab include in vitro and in vivo electrophysiology, optogenetics and chemogenetics, olfactory behavioral testing, neuroanatomy, and immunohistochemical staining.

Candidates must have a recent Ph.D. or equivalent degree in neuroscience or a related discipline with documented experience in electrophysiology (patch clamping) at the time of employment. Experience in optogenetics, chemogenetics or olfactory behaviors is advantageous but not necessary. Appropriate training will be provided as needed. Applicant should have good written and oral scientific communication skills, self-motivation, and the ability to work both independently and in a multidisciplinary team-oriented environment. This is an excellent opportunity to participate in exciting research that will tightly coordinate in vitro and in vivo experimental approaches.

Interested individuals are encouraged to send an electronic copy of your curriculum vitae, a statement of research summarizing your major achievement and career goals, and a brief cover letter including the name and contact information of three references to: Shaolin Liu, Ph.D., Principal Investigator & Assistant Professor, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, 20 Penn Street, Baltimore, MD 21201, E-mail:


  1. Liu, S., Rao, Y. and Daw, N. W. (2003) Role of protein kinase A and protein kinase G in synaptic plasticity in the visual cortex. Cereb. Cortex 13, 864-869.
  2. Xu, L.*, Liu, S. L.* and Zhang, J. T. (2005) (-)-Clausenamide potentiates synaptic transmission in the dentate gyrus of rats. Chirality 17, 239-244. (*Co-first authors).
  3. Xu, L., Wang, X. Y., Liu, S. L., Zhang, J. T. (2007) Two forms of long-term potentiation induced by different compounds. J. Asian Nat. Prod. Res. 9(3):217-22.
  4. Liu, S. and Shipley, M. T. (2008) Multiple conductances cooperatively regulate spontaneous bursting in mouse olfactory bulb external tufted cells. J. Neurosci. 28 (7): 1625-39.
  5. Liu, S. and Friel, D. D. (2008) Impact of the leaner P/Q-type Ca2+ channel mutation on excitatory synaptic transmission in cerebellar Purkinje cells. J. Physiol. (London) 586 (18): 4501-4515.
  6. Liu, S. and Shipley, M. T. (2008) Intrinsic conductances actively shape excitatory and inhibitory postsynaptic responses in olfactory bulb external tufted cells. J. Neurosci. 28 (41): 10311-22.
  7. Liu, S., August, J.A., Puche, A. C. and Shipley, M. T. (2012) Serotonin modulates the population profile of olfactory bulb external tufted cells. J. Neurophysiol. 107 (1): 473-83.
  8. Shao, Z., Puche, A. C., Liu, S. and Shipley, M. T. (2012) Intraglomerular inhibition shapes the strength and temporal structure of glomerular output. J. Neurophysiol. 108 (3): 782-793.
  9. Liu, S., Plachez, C., Shao, Z., Puche, A. C. and Shipley, M. T. (2013) Olfactory bulb short axon cell release of GABA and dopamine produces a temporally biphasic inhibition-excitation response in external tufted cells. J. Neurosci. 33 (7): 2916-2926.
  10. Liu, S., Shao, Z., Puche, A. C., Wachowiak, M., Rothermel, M. and Shipley, M. T. (2015) Muscarinic receptors modulate dendrodendritic inhibitory synapses to sculpt glomerular output. J. Neurosci. 35 (14): 5680-92.
  11. Chu, S.*, Liu, S.*, Duan, W., Cheng, Y., Jiang, X., Chu, C., Tang, K., Wang, R., Xu, L., Wang, X., Yu, X., Wu, K., Wang, Y., Wang, M., Huang, H. and Zhang J. (2016) The anti-dementia drug candidate, (-)-Clausenamide, improves memory impairment through its multi-target effect. Pharmacol. Ther. Jan 23. [Epub ahead of print]. (* Co-first authors).