Katherine VillaPostdoctoral Associate

Short Biography

The brain is capable of dynamically changing in response to sensory input, resulting in learning and memory. Synapses, the connections between neurons, are the structural landmark that is physically altered upon learning. I am interested in the cellular and molecular mechanisms of neuronal plasticity, especially in the various subsets of inhibitory neurons. For my PhD, I investigated the changes in both excitatory and inhibitory synapses in the living rodent brain using fluorescently tagged proteins and imaging with two photon microscopy. With my co-authors, I discovered that inhibitory synapses of visual cortex are capable of assembling and disassembling on a time course of days, and that altering inputs results in greater plasticity and loss of inhibitory synapses. I am currently continuing this work and looking at ways to label presynaptic inhibitory inputs.


  • Johns Hopkins University, Molecular and Cellular BS, MS
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, PhD

Selected Publications

  • Excitatory and inhibitory synaptic placement and functional implications. KL Villa, E Nedivi. Dendrites: Development and Disease. Ed. K Emoto, R Wong, E Huang, C Hoogenraad. 2015, Ch. 18.
  • Inhibitory synapses are repeatedly assembled and removed at persistent sites in vivo. KL Villa, KP Berry, J Subramanian, JW Cha, WC Oh, HB Kwon, PTC So, Y Kubota, E Nedivi. Neuron 2016 Feb 17;89(4):756-69.
  • Clustered Dynamics of Inhibitory Synapses and Dendritic Spines in the Adult Neocortex. JL Chen, KL Villa, JW Cha, P So, Y Kubota, E Nedivi. Neuron 2012 Apr 26;74(2):361-73.
  • Comparative analysis of the effects of antimuscarinic agents on bladder functions in both non-human primates and rodents. H Nagabukuro, KL Villa, LA Wickham, AA Kulick, L Gichuru, M J Donnelly, GO Voronin, T Pereira, X Tong, A Nichols, S Alves, GP O’Neill, CV Johnson, EJ Hickey. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 2011 Jul;338(1):220-7.
  • Correlation between pharmacologically-induced changes in cystometric parameters and spinal c-Fos expression in rats. H Nagabukuro, A Degenhardt, KL Villa, SL Mistry, L Gichuru, N Jochnowitz, C Abbadie. Auton Neurosci 2010 Aug 25;156(1-2):19-26.
  • Rods-cones and melanopsin detect light and dark to modulate sleep independent of image formation. CM Altimus, AD Güler, KL Villa, DS McNeill, TA Legates, S Hattar. PNAS 2008 Dec 16;105(50):19998-20003.