Huntley Lab

Laboratory of Synaptic Circuit Development and Plasticity


Synapse structure and function is continuously modified during development and throughout life by experience, such as learning new skills or forming new memories. Such synaptic plasticity is thus critical for normal brain function. Synaptic plasticity can also become maladaptive under conditions of brain, spinal or peripheral nerve injury, leading to abnormal function or sensation. Dr. Huntley’s research focuses on mechanisms of synaptic plasticity through which synaptic structure and function are modified by experience, injury or genetic mutation. Research projects include: 1) the role of the cadherin family of synaptic adhesion proteins in synapse and circuit development, plasticity and repair; 2) genes, molecules and mechanisms regulating aberrant corticostriatal circuit development and plasticity in autism and Parkinson’s disease models.

flattened tangential layer iv developing rat cortex
The synapse adhesion molecule neural (N)-cadherin is localized to developing thalamocortical synaptic junctional complexes. The larger image is a flattened, tangential section through layer IV of developing (P5) rat cortex which has been immunolabeled for N-cadherin. Terminal fields in the barrel (somatosensory) cortex (S1), auditory cortex (A1) and visual cortex (V1) are evident in the patterns of N-cadherin labeling. The confocal microscope images shown in the inset verify that such terminal fields are N-cadherin labeled thalamocortical synapses, shown in the overlay by the codistributions of FluoroRuby-labeled ventrobasal thalamic afferent terminals (red), immunolabeling for PSD-95 (blue)–which is concentrated in asymmetric postsynaptic densities–and N-cadherin (green). Modified from the article by G.W. Huntley and D.L. Benson, “N-Cadherin at developing thalamocortical synapses provides an adhesion mechanism for the formation of somatotopically organized connections.” Journal of Comparative Neurology 407:453-471 (1999).

Contact Us

Huntley Laboratory
George W. Huntley, Ph.D
Department of Neuroscience and the Friedman Brain Institute
Director, Neuroscience PhD Graduate Training Area
Ombuds for the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Lab: HESS CSM 9-302
Office: HESS CSM 9-108
Office: 212.824.8981
Lab: 212.824.9133
Fax: 212.537.9583

Featured Publication

Matikainen-Ankney BA, Kezunovic N, Menard C, Flanigan ME, Zhon Y, Russo SJ, Benson DL, Huntley GW. Parkinson’s disease-linked LRRK2-G2019S mutation alters synaptic plasticity and promotes resilience to chronic social stress in young adulthood. J Neurosci 2018 38:9700-9711.

The G2019S mutation in LRRK2 causes late-onset Parkinson’s disease (PD). We show that young adult G2019S mice are unusually resilient to a depression-like syndrome resulting from chronic social stress. Mechanistically, mutant striatal synapses are incapable of forms of synaptic plasticity that normally accompany depression-like behavior and is important for supporting a full range of cognitive abilities. This suggests that in humans, LRRK2 mutation may affect striatal circuit function in ways that alter normal responses to stress and could be relevant for treatment strategies for non-motor PD symptoms.



Flanigan ME, Aleyasin H, LeClair K, Lucas EK, Matikainen-Ankney BA, Takahashi A, Menar C, Bouchard S, Pfau ML, Golden SA, Calipari ES, Nestler EJ, DiLeone RJ, Yamanaka A, Huntley GW, Clem RL, Russo SJ. (2020) Orexin Signaling in GABAergic lateral habenula neurons modulates aggressive behavior in male mice. Nature Neurosci. 23:638-650.

Huntley, GW and Benson DL (2020) Origins of Parkinson’s disease in brain development: instghts from early and persistent effects of LRRK2-G2019S on striatal circuits. Frontiers in Neurosci, 14:265, doi:10.3389/fnins.2020.00265.

Guevara, C.A., Matikainen-Ankney, B.A., Kezunovic, N., LeClair, K., Conway, A.P., Menard, C., Flanigan, M.E., Pfau, M., Russo, S.J., Benson, D.L., and Huntley, G.W. (2020) LRRK2 mutation alters behavioral, synaptic and non-synaptic adaptations to acute social stress. J. Neurophysiology 123:2382-2389.


Benson DL,  Huntley GW. Are we listening to everything the PARK genes are telling us? J Comp Neurol 2019 527:1527-1540.


Matikainen-Ankney BA, Kezunovic N, Menard C, Flanigan ME, Zhon Y, Russo SJ, Benson DL, Huntley GW. Parkinson’s disease-linked LRRK2-G2019S mutation alters synaptic plasticity and promotes resilience to chronic social stress in young adulthood. J Neurosci 2018 38:9700-9711.


Benson DL, Matikainen-Ankney BA, Hussein A, Huntley GW. Functional and behavioral consequences of Parkinson’s Disease associated LRRK2-G2019S mutation. Biochem Society Transactions 2018 46:1697-1705.


Zhu Y, Vidaurre OG, Adula KP, Kezunovic N, Wentling M, Huntley GW, Casaccia P. Subcellular distribution of HDAC1 in neurotoxic conditions is dependent on serine phosphorylation. J Neurosci 2017 37:7547-7559.


Ibi D, Revenga M, Kezunovic N, Muguruza C, Saunder JM, Gaitonde SA, Moreno JL, Ijaz MK, Santosh V, Kozlenkov A, Holloway T, Seto J, Garcia-Bea A, Kurita M, Mosley GE, Jiang Y, Christoffel DJ, Callado LF, Russo SJ, Dracheva S, Lopez-Gimenez JF, Ge Y, Escalante CR, Meana JJ, Akbarian S, Huntley GW, Gonzalez-Maeso J. Antipsychotic-induced Hdac2 transcription via NF-kB leads to synaptic and cognitive side effects. Nat Neurosci 2017 20:1247-1259.


Matikainen-Ankney BA, Kezunovic, N, Mesias RE, Tian Y, Williams GM, Huntley GW, Benson DL. Altered development of synapse structure and function in striatum caused by Parkinson’s disease-linked LRRK2-G2019S mutation. J Neurosci 2016 36:7128-7141.


Friedman LG, Benson Dl, Huntley GW. Cadherin-based trans-synaptic networks in establishing and modifying neural connectivity. Curr Top Dev Biol 2015 112:415-465.

Friedman LG, Riemslagh FW, Sullivan JM, Mesias R, Williams FM, Huntley GW, Benson DL. (2015) Cadherin-8 expression, synaptic localization and molecular control of neuronal form in prefrontal cortico-striatal circuits. J Comp Neurol 523:75-92.


Fargali, S, Garcia AL, Sadahiro M, Jiang C, Janssen WG, Lin WJ, Cogliani V, Elste A, Mortillo S, Cero C, Veitenheimer B, Graiani G, Pasinetti GM, Mahata SK, Osborn JW, Huntley GW , Phillips GR, Benson DL, Bartolomucci A, Salton SR. 2014 The granin VGF promotes genesis of secretory vesicles, and regulates circulating catecholamine levels and blood pressure. FASEB J 2014 28:2120-2133.

Carcea I, Patil SB, Robison AJ, Mesias R, Huntsman MM, Froemke RC, Buxbaum JD, Huntley GW, Benson DL. (2014) Maturation of cortical circuits requires Sema 7A. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 111:13978-13983.

Aujla P, Huntley GW. (2014) Early postnatal expression and localization of matrix metalloproteinases-2 and -9 during establishment of rat hippocampal synaptic circuitry. J Comp Neurol 522:1249-1263.

Nikitczuk, JS, Patil SB, Scarpa J, Shapiro ML, Benson DL, Huntley GW. (2014) N-cadherin regulates molecular organization of excitatory and inhibitory synpatic circuits in adult hippocampus in vivo. Hippocampus 24:943-962.


Arguello A, Ye X, Bozdagi O, Pollonini G, Tronel S., Bambah-Mukku D, Huntley, GW, Platano D, Alberini C. (2013) CCAAT enhancer binding protein delta plays an essential role in memory consolidation and reconsolidation. J. Neurosci 33:3646-3658.


Huntley, G.W. (2012) Synaptic circuit remodelling by matrix metalloproteinases in health and disease. Nat Rev Neurosci 2012 13:743-757.

Benson DL, Huntley GW. Building and remodeling synapses. Hippocampus 2012 22:954-968.

Huntley GW, Elste AM, Patil SB, Bozdagi O, Benson DL, Steward, O. Synaptic loss and retention of different classic cadherins with LTP-associated synaptic structural remodeling in vivo. Hippocampus 2012 22:17-28.

Mortillo, S., Elste, A., Ge, Y., Patil, S.B., Hsiao, K., Huntley, G.W. and Benson, D.L. (2012) Compensatory redistribution of neuroligins and N-cadherin following deletion of synaptic β 1-integrin. J. Comp. Neurol. 520:2041-2052.

Benson, D.L. and Huntley, G.W. (2012) Synapse adhesion: a dynamic equilibrium conferring stability and flexibility. Curr Opin Neurobiol 22:397-404.


Bozdagi, O., Wang, X., Martinelli, G.P., Prell, G., Friedrich, V.L., Huntley, G.W., and Holstein, G.R. (2011) Imidazoleacetic acid-ribotide induces depression of synaptic responses in hippocampus through activation of imidazonline receptors. J. Neurophysiol. 105:1266-1275.

Suzuki, A., Stern, S.A., Bozdagi, O., Huntley, G.W. Walker, R.H., Magistretti, P., and Alberini, C.M. (2011) The astrocyte-neuron lactate-shuttle is required for long-term memory. Cell 144:810-823.

Patil, S., Brock, J.H., Colman, D.R., and Huntley, G.W. (2011) GDNF-dependent modulation of cadherins in spinal dorsal horn in relationship to neuropathic pain. Pain 152:924-935.

Parikh, P., Hao, Y., Hosseinkhani, M., Patil, S.B., Huntley, G.W., Tessier-Lavigne, M., and Zou, H. (2011) Regeneration of axons in injured spinal cord by activation of BMP/Smad1 signaling pathway in adult neurons. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108:E99-E107.

Meet the Team

Pamela del Valle

PhD student

Pamela is a graduate student in the PhD Neuroscience graduate program working jointly in the Huntley-Benson labs studying how Parkinson’s disease-linked mutations affect the peripheral and central immune system in ways that impact synapses, circuits and behaviors.

Swati Gupta

Postdoctoral Fellow

Swati is a postdoctoral Fellow working jointly in the Huntley-Benson labs studying the cell biology of membrane channel trafficking and synapse plasticity in mouse models of Parkinson’s disease.

Roxana Mesias

PhD Student

Roxi is a graduate student in the PhD Neuroscience program working jointly in the Huntley-Benson labs on the synaptic adhesion protein cadherin-8 and it’s role in establishing corticostriatal circuit connectivity and function during early postnatal development. Roxi is also a Posse Foundation Alumna and an active leader in the Posse community

Ayan Hussein

PhD student

Ayan is a graduate student in the PhD Neuroscience graduate program working jointly in the Huntley-Benson labs on dorsal striatal-based cognitive functions in mouse genetic models of Parkinson’s Disease.

Christopher Guevara

PhD student

Chris is a graduate student in the PhD Neuroscience graduate program working jointly in the Huntley-Benson labs. Chris is using mouse genetic models of Parkinson’s disease to examine effects of behavioral stress on synaptic and non-synaptic forms of adaptive plasticity in cells and circuits of dorsal and ventral striatum and related structures.