Carnegie Mellon University

Sandra J. Kuhlman

Associate Professor of Biological Sciences

159B Mellon Institute
Department of Biological Sciences
Carnegie Mellon University
4400 Fifth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Phone: 412-268-8222
Fax: 412-268-7129


Lab website

Sandra Kuhlman


Ph.D., University of Kentucky
Postdoctoral Appointments, Cold Spring Harbor laboratory and University of California, Los Angeles


How to build a brain for learning?
As adults we constantly face challenges in our environment and must adapt our brain circuits to deal with new situations. By splicing the DNA that codes for fluorescent proteins found in jellyfish and corals into the genome of mice, in combination with state-of-the-art multiphoton laser-scanning microscopy, we visualize and track the circuit changes that occur in the brains of awake behaving animals as they learn new skills.

How to build a circuit for learning in the first place?
The process of circuit assembly itself is finalized during the transition from childhood to adolescence, and influenced by experience. Construction must proceed correctly for further adult learning to occur. By comparing and contrasting learning in the young versus adult, we hope to identify, and ultimately rescue, the essential aspects of circuit construction that are vulnerable to deprivation and disease.

The specific goal of my research is to understand the influence of cortical inhibitory circuits on sensory development and perceptual learning. I use a range of techniques, including electrophysiological recordings of targeted cell types in-vivo and in-vitro, 2-photon microscopy, behavioral methods, and computational analyses.


Koh ZH, Bishop WE, Kawashima T, Jeon BB, Srinivasan R, Kuhlman SJ, Ahrens MB, Chase SM, Yu BM. Dimensionality reduction of calcium-imaged neuronal population activity. Nature Computational Science 2022 Dec 29. doi: 10.1038/s43588-022-00390-2.

Jeon BB, Fuchs, T, Chase SM, Kuhlman SJ. Visual experience has opposing influences on the quality of stimulus representation in adult primary visual cortex. eLife 2022 Nov 2;11:e80361. doi: 10.7554/eLife.80361. PMID: 36321876.

Jeon BB, Fuchs T, Chase SM, Kuhlman SJ. Existing function in primary visual cortex is not perturbed by new skill acquisition of a non-matched sensory task. Nature Communication. 2022 Jun 25;13(1):3638. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-31440-y.

Kowalewski NN, Kauttonen J, Stan PL, Jeon BB, Fuchs T, Chase SM, Lee TS, Kuhlman SJ. Development of Natural Scene Representation in Primary Visual Cortex Requires Early Postnatal Experience. Curr Biol. 2021 Jan 25;31(2):369-380.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.10.046. Epub 2020 Nov 20. PMID: 33220181

Jeon BB, Swain AD, Good JT, Chase SM, Kuhlman SJ.  Feature selectivity is stable in primary visual cortex across a range of spatial frequencies. (2018) Scientific Reports, 8(1):15288.

Feese BD, Pafundo DE, Schmehl MN, Kuhlman SJ. Binocular deprivation induces both age-dependent and age-independent forms of plasticity in parvalbumin inhibitory neuron visual response properties.  (2018) J Neurophysiol, 119(2):738-751.

Kuhlman SJ, Craig LM, Duffy JF. Introduction to chronobiology, in Circadian Rhythms. (2018) Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Cold Spring Harbor, NY. Edited by P. Sassone-Corsi, M.W. Young, and A.B. Reddy.

Samonds JM, Feese BD, Lee TS, Kuhlman SJ.  Nonuniform surround suppression of visual responses in mouse V1.  (2017) J Neurophysiol, 118(6):3282-3292.

Jeon BB, Kuhlman SJ. The underdog pathway gets a boost. (2017) Nat Neurosci, 20(12):1655-1656.

Pafundo DE, Nicholas MA, Zhang R, Kuhlman SJ.  Top-down-mediated facilitation in the visual cortex is gated by subcortical neuromodulation. (2016) J Neurosci, 36(10):2904-14.

Kuhlman SJ, O'Connor DH, Fox K, Svoboda K. Structural plasticity within the barrel cortex during initial phases of whisker-dependent learning.  (2014) J Neurosci, 34(17):6078-83.

Kuhlman SJ, Olivas ND, Tring E, Ikrar T, Xu X, Trachtenberg JT. A disinhibitory microcircuit initiates critical-period plasticity in the visual cortex. (2013) Nature, 501(7468):543-6.

Barth, A.L. and Kuhlman, S.J.  The many layers of specification and plasticity in the neocortex. (2013) Neuron, 79(5): 829-831.

Kuhlman SJ, Tring E, Trachtenberg JT. Fast-spiking interneurons have an initial orientation bias that is lost with vision. (2011) Nat Neurosci, 14(9):1121-3.

Huang ZJ, Taniguchi H, He M, and Kuhlman S. Genetic labeling of neurons in mouse brain, in Imaging in Developmental Biology: A Laboratory Manual. (2010) Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Cold Spring Harbor, NY.  Edited by J Sharpe and RO Wong, series editor R Yuste.

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