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the murphy lab
@ Princteon University
Vanisha Lakhina

Vanisha Lakhina


My research interests lie in the field of neuronal development and plasticity. During my Master’s and Ph.D., I have investigated how brain circuits form during development and in my postdoctoral research, I am examining how neuronal function declines with age.

2012-present: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Princeton University
Lab of Dr. Coleen Murphy

Using a novel technique developed in our lab, I identified genes that are associated with healthy neuronal aging in long-lived daf-2 mutant animals (published in Nature 2016). I discovered that one of these genes, FKH-9, is essential for re-growing older neuronal axons upon injury. This work was funded by a Postdoctoral Fellowship that I received from the New Jersey Commission on Brain Injury Research, and could eventually lead to therapies for brain injury patients. I also identified 750 genes important for establishing long-term memory in young, healthy animals (published in Neuron, 2015). Future work on these memory genes could lead to the development of drugs that would prevent cognitive decline in older adults.

2004-2011: PhD candidate, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Jonathan Raper

During my PhD, I investigated how olfactory circuits are generated during larval zebrafish development. I created novel odorant receptor-specific transgenic lines and showed that netrin/DCC signaling is required to guide olfactory sensory axons to a precise location within the olfactory bulb in the brain (published in the Journal of Neuroscience, 2012). While sub-regions of the mature olfactory bulb receive input from neurons expressing just one kind of odorant receptor, unexpectedly, we found that a distinct region of the developing olfactory bulb is innervated by neurons expressing multiple, related odorant receptors (manuscript in preparation).

2001-2004: Masters student, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai
Thesis Advisor: Dr Shubha Tole

For my Masters thesis, I worked on three distinct aspects of brain development. I discovered that the Lhx2 transcription factor is required for thalamic axons to enter the ventral telencephalon of the embryonic mouse brain (published in Developmental Biology, 2007). I collaborated with Dr. Rashmi Bansal at the University of Connecticut Medical School to examine the development of oligodendrocytes (myelin-forming cells found in the central nervous system). We examined the dynamics of FGF receptor regulation in developing oligodendrocytes in the mouse forebrain and cerebellum (published in Developmental Neuroscience, 2003). Our in-depth expression analysis predicted novel roles for Fgf receptors in oligodendrocyte development. In a second collaborative project with Dr. Vidita Vaidya at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, I identified differential gene expression patterns in the brains of adult but not postnatal rats upon seizure induction (published in F1000 Research, 2013). These genes could be required for the seizure-induced functional plasticity that occurs in adult brains.

Selected Publications


Kaletsky, R., Lakhina, V., Arey, R., Williams, A., Landis, J., Ashraf, J., and Murphy, C.T. The C. elegans adult neuronal IIS/FOXO transcriptome reveals adult phenotype regulators. Nature (2015) Dec 14; 529(7584):92-96. These authors contributed equally to this work.


Lakhina, V., and Murphy, C.T. Genome Sequencing Fishes out Longevity Genes. Cell (2015) Dec 3; 163(6):1312-1313.


Lakhina, V., and Murphy, C.T. For Longevity, Perception is Everything. Cell (2015) Feb 26; 160(5):807-809.


Lakhina, V., Arey, R.N., Kaletsky, R., Kauffman, A., Stein, G., Keyes, W., Xu, D., and Murphy, C.T. Genome-wide Functional Analysis of CREB/Long-Term Memory-Dependent Transcription Reveals Distinct Basal and Memory Gene Expression Programs. Neuron (2015) Jan 21; 85(2): 330-345. These authors contributed equally to this work.

Other Interests

Other interests: When not sciencing it up, I can be found fantasizing about travel, food, dancing and chai (not necessarily in that order). I am also a member of the Princeton Postdoc Council and organize career and social events for postdocs.