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Wen Li

Wen Li

Regular Member


[email protected]

The University of Texas Health Science Center
McGovern School of Medicine
Department of Psychiatry

How do people extract emotional meaning from an environmental input and respond
with fear, pain, anger or joy? How do some people suffer debilitating conditions in
processing and experiencing emotions? We approach these questions from a
neurosensory perspective (i.e., sensory-cortex-based threat encoding): The sensory
cortex stores threat codes and thus supports active, independent encoding of threat
cues during sensory processing, initiating defensive responses directly or interactively
with the limbic system. As the dominant role of amygdala is increasingly questioned in
human threat processing, our research on the sensory cortex (tackling its role in
perception, learning, and memory) has initiated a paradigm shift in threat
conceptualization (cf. Li & Keil, TICS 2023). Furthermore, our lab has pioneered
research into the sensory mechanisms underlying threat-related disorders and
developing therapeutics based on these mechanisms. For example, we aim to identify
sensory cortical plasticity induced by aversive learning as a mechanism underlying the
formation and maintenance of threat codes in the sensory cortex. We further examine
sensory cortical plasticity as a result of perceptual training and transcranial electrical
stimulation, thereby rewriting or erasing threat codes or adjusting neural excitability in
the sensory cortex to normalize threat responses and ameliorate symptoms. Our
research, generously supported by NIH funding, seamlessly integrates cognitive and
affective neuroscience, experimental psychopathology, and clinical psychology.
Employing a multi-modal approach, we utilize methodologies such as psychophysics,
psychophysiology, fMRI, EEG, and transcranial electrical stimulation (tES) to
comprehensively investigate these intricate processes.


Education & Training

PhD, Northwestern University, 2004

Research Opportunities