Chiayu Chiu

CINV-Max Planck Tandem Research Group Leader
Centro Interdisciplinario de Neurociencia de Valparaíso

Ph.D. – Neuroscience, University of Rochester, Rochester NY, USA (2005).
B.S. – Neuroscience, New York University, New York NY (1996)

Curriculum Vitae

Contact Information:
E-mail: chiayu.chiu at
Teléfono: (56)-(32)-2508453

Address: Av. Gran Bretaña 1111, Playa Ancha, Valparaíso. Chile.


Research Interests:

Brain function is tightly controlled by a delicate balance of excitation (E) and inhibition (I) that is dynamically maintained in single neurons and within neural networks. An imbalance of E/I is implicated in many neuropathological and psychiatric disorders. Research in my laboratory aims to understand how E/I balance is achieved in a neural landscape that is ever-changing. For example, glutamatergic synapses that mediate excitation readily modify their strength and number during learning and memory. Consequently, GABAergic synapses that mediate inhibition should also be plastic, exhibiting changes that match their excitatory counterpart. Notably, little is known about the reciprocal interactions between excitatory and inhibitory synaptic signaling. This is due to the fact that GABAergic synapses arise from a heterogeneous population of interneurons and occur on discrete sub-cellular postsynaptic compartments. With the advent of advanced optical, pharmacological and genetic tools, we can now dissect the richness of GABAergic interneurons that mediate disparate forms of synaptic inhibition. To monitor and stimulate individual synapses, we will combine electrophysiology and optogenetics with calcium imaging and GABA/glutamate uncaging using a state-of-the-art 2-photon microscope system to study the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which excitatory and inhibitory synapses mutually regulate each other.

Specific goals are to determine:

  1. How individual GABAergic synapses regulate excitatory synaptic signaling and dendritic spine plasticity
  2. How specific GABAergic interneuron types contribute to cortical processing at the systems level to modulate behavior.
  3. How disparate forms of synaptic inhibition are regulated to match changes in excitatory neurotransmission.
  4. How sensory experience modifies inhibitory circuits during development.


Selected Peer-reviewed Publications:

  • Amatrudo J, Olson JP, Lur G, Chiu CQ, Higley MJ, Ellis-Davies GC. Wavelength-selective one- and two-photon uncaging of GABA. ACS Chem. Neurosci. 5, 64-70, 2014.
  • Chiu CQ*, Lur G*, Morse TM, Carnevale NT, Ellis-Davies GC, Higley MJ. Compartmentalization of GABAergic inhibition by dendritic spines. Science 340, 759-62, 2013. *equal contribution
  • Olson JP, Kwon HB, Takasaki KT, Chiu CQ, Higley MJ, Sabatini BL, Ellis-Davies GC. Optically selective two-photon uncaging of glutamate at 900nm. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 135, 5954-7, 2013.
  • Tsetsenis T, Younts TJ, Chiu CQ, Kaeser PS, Castillo PE, Südhof TC. Rab3B protein is required for long-term depression of hippocampal inhibitory synapses and for normal reversal learning. PNAS 108, 14300-14305, 2011.
  • Chávez AE, Chiu CQ, Castillo PE. TRPV1 activation by endogenous anandamide triggers postsynaptic long-term depression in dentate gyrus. Nature Neurosci. 13, 1511-1518, 2010.
  • Chiu CQ, Puente N, Grandes P, Castillo PE. Dopaminergic modulation of endocannabinoid-mediated plasticity at GABAergic synapses in the prefrontal cortex. J. Neurosci. 30, 7236-7248, 2010.
  • Chiu CQ, Castillo PE. Input-specific plasticity at excitatory synapses mediated by endocannabinoids in the dentate gyrus. Neuropharmacology 54, 68-78, 2008.
  • Kaeser PS, Kwon HB, Chiu CQ, Deng L, Castillo PE, Südhof TC. RIM1alpha and RIM1beta are synthesized from distinct promoters of the RIM1 gene to mediate differential but overlapping synaptic functions. J. Neurosci. 28, 13435-13447, 2008.
  • Chiu C, Weliky M. Multi-electrode recording from the developing visual pathway of awake behaving ferrets. J. Neurosci. Methods 136, 55-61, 2004.
  • Fiser J, Chiu C, Weliky M. Small modulation of ongoing cortical dynamics by sensory input during natural vision. Nature 431, 573-578, 2004.
  • Chiu C, Weliky M. Relationship of correlated spontaneous activity to functional ocular dominance columns in the developing visual cortex. Neuron 35, 1123-1134, 2002.
  • Chiu C, Weliky M. Spontaneous activity in developing ferret visual cortex in vivo. J. Neurosci. 21, 8906-8914, 2001.


  • Chiu C, Weliky M. Synaptic modification by vision. Perspectives in Science 300, 1890-1891, 2003.
    Castillo PE, Chiu CQ, Carroll RC. Long-term plasticity at inhibitory synapses. Current Opinion in Neurobiology 21, 328-338, 2011.

Book Chapters:

  • Chiu C, Weliky M. The role of neural activity in the development of orientation selectivity. In: The Visual Neurosciences. L. Chalupa, J. Werner (eds.), MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp. 117-125, 2003.
  • Chiu CQ, Castillo PE. Endocannabinoid-mediated long-term depression at inhibitory synapses. In: Inhibitory Synaptic Plasticity. MA Woodin, A. Maffei (eds.), Springer Science+Business Media, Inc., New York, NY, pp. 149-166, 2010.