About the Zakharenko Lab

Neural circuits encode normal behavior and undergo changes in organization and function throughout development. When these circuits become dysfunctional, they contribute to neurological and psychiatric disease. Our laboratory focuses on gaining a mechanistic understanding of behavior and disease at the level of neural circuits, individual neuron synapses, and molecules. We use advanced optical, electrophysiological, molecular, and genomic studies in animal models and human organoids to gain in-depth knowledge of the central nervous system. We are currently investigating the mechanisms of the 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, which confers one of the strongest risks of schizophrenia, and mechanisms of Williams–Beuren syndrome. Ultimately, our work will help define the underpinnings of neuropsychiatric disorders. 

Science Team

Our research summary

Auditory Learning and Memory

For young children, learning new auditory information (e.g., a new language or music) is often an effortless task. However, there is a developmental progression of difficulty that occurs as we age. This added hurdle is created by changes in the plasticity of our auditory neural circuits. The central auditory system (including the thalamus and cortex) exhibits electrophysiological signatures that show changes in synaptic plasticity (such as long-term potentiation and long-term depression) in the thalamocortical circuity. We are interested in understanding why this early critical period for auditory learning becomes closed and identifying the mechanisms that preclude us from effortlessly acquiring new auditory information later in life. 

Zakharenko Lab

Genetic Models of Neuropsychiatric Disease

Our mechanistic understanding of schizophrenia has not considerably improved, mostly because schizophrenia is a polygenic, multicausal disease that is difficult to model. We are exploring the 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11DS) and other rare copy number variations that present the highest genetic risk for development of schizophrenia and are possible to model in animals and human organoids. Our goal is to identify the mechanisms that will better our understanding of this enigmatic disease. 

Zakharenko Lab 2

The ability to distinguish one sound from another or from the surrounding acoustic background is essential for everyday hearing, linguistic abilities, and musicality. Williams-Beuren syndrome (WBS) is of interest to auditory researchers, because despite developmental delays in physical and intellectual abilities, individuals with WBS show strengths in linguistic and/or musical skills, remarkable auditory acuity, and even surprising prevalence of “perfect pitch.” Elucidating the mechanisms underlying WBS may provide new insights on how the auditory system encodes our ability to identify and discriminate sounds. 

Selected Publications

About Stanislav Zakharenko

Dr. Stanislav S. Zakharenko received his medical degree from the Russian State Medical University and his Ph.D. in Physiology and Biophysics from the Russian Academy of Science. Following his postdoctoral training in neuroscience at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Columbia University/Howard Hughes Medical Institute, he joined as faculty at St. Jude. His research is focused on the function, plasticity, and organization of neural circuits underlying learning and memory and their dysfunction in disease (e.g., 22q11 deletion syndrome and schizophrenia). He has received several awards including being named a Searle Scholar, receiving the NARSAD Independent Investigator Award, the Whitehall Foundation Award, the Uytengsu-Hamilton 22q11 Neuropsychiatry Research Award from Stanford University, and other awards. He has made significant contributions to the understanding of mechanisms of learning and memory and the pathophysiology of schizophrenia.

alt text

The team

Multidisciplinary and diverse team of scientists with expertise in single-cell electrophysiology, animal behavior, optical imaging of neural activity in awake animal, viral tracing, computational modeling, molecular biology, and mouse genetics. 

Lab Alumni

Laurie Earls, PhD

  • Role: Postdoctoral Research Associate
  • Tenure: 2008-2015
  • Post-lab experience: Assistant Professor at Tulane University
  • LinkedIn

Joby Westmoreland, PhD

  • Role: Postdoctoral Research Associate
  • Tenure: 2012-2015
  • Post-lab experience: Research Assistant Professor at Tulane University
  • LinkedIn

Sungkun Chun, PhD

  • Role: Postdoctoral Research Associate
  • Tenure: 2010-2015
  • Post-lab experience: Associate Professor at Jeonbuk National University
  • LinkedIn

Olena Filchakova, PhD

  • Role: Postdoctoral Research Associate
  • Tenure: 2013-2014
  • Post-lab experience: Assistant Professor at Nazarbayev University
  • LinkedIn

R. Gaines Fricke, MD

  • Role: Research Technician
  • Tenure: 2006-2009
  • Post-lab experience: Radiologist, Little Rock, AR
  • LinkedIn

Michael Ulm, MD, MS, FACOG

  • Role: Research Technician
  • Tenure: 2007-2008
  • Post-lab experience: Gynecologist, Oncologist, Memphis, TN
  • LinkedIn

Kara Anderson, MD

  • Role: Research Technician
  • Tenure: 2016-2017
  • Post-lab experience: Medical Student at Marshall University; Pediatric Resident at Mayo Clinic

Seung Baek Han, PhD

  • Role: Lab Operations Manager
  • Tenure: 2015 to 2021
  • Post-lab experience: Scientist II, Resilience, San Diego, CA
  • LinkedIn

Fei Du, PhD

  • Role: Research Lab Specialist
  • Tenure: 2013-2015
  • Post-lab experience: Senior Scientist at HD Biosciences, Inc

Marcia Mellado-Lagarde, PhD

  • Role: Staff Scientist
  • Tenure: 2014-2016
  • Post-lab experience: Sr. Advisor- Clinical Research Scientist at Lilly
  • LinkedIn

Prakash Devaraju, PhD

  • Role: Postdoctoral Research Associate
  • Tenure: 2011-2019
  • Post-lab experience: Staff Research Associate at University of Utah
  • LinkedIn

Margaret Sperow, PhD

  • Role: Graduate Student
  • Tenure: 2006-2011
  • Post-lab experience: Postdoctoral Research Associate at Temple University.
  • LinkedIn

Damian Kaminski

  • Role: Research Tech
  • Tenure: 2017-2019
  • Post-lab experience: Field Account Manager, Sartorius, Boston, MA
  • LinkedIn

Contact us

Stanislav Zakharenko, MD, PhD
Member and Division Director

Developmental Neurobiology
MS 323
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

262 Danny Thomas Place
Memphis, TN, 38105-3678 USA
(901) 595-3837 stanislav.zakharenko@stjude.org
262 Danny Thomas Place
Memphis, TN, 38105-3678 USA