Harvard University - Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology


Jeremy R. Knowles Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Santiago Ramón y Cajal Professor of Arts and Sciences

Email: jeff@mcb.harvard.edu
Phone: 617-496-8943

Mail: NW 249.50
Northwest Building
52 Oxford St
Cambridge, MA  02138

Lichtman Lab Website
Members of the Lichtman Lab
List of Publications from PubMed


MCB 68. Cell Biology Through the Microscope
Catalog Number: 11556  View Course Website
Term: Spring Term 2013-2014.   Credit: Half course.
Instructors: Ethan Garner, Jeff Lichtman
Course Level: Primarily for Undergraduates
Description: MCB 68 explores three fundamental fields of eukaryotic cell biology: chromosome segregation, cell motility, and neuroscience. Each topic is approached from a historic and technical perspective. Students will discover these systems as the scientific field did, learning how each successive advance in microscopy revealed new biological details. Students will come away with a theoretical and hands-on understanding of microscopy as well as a grasp of the biological findings each technology revealed.
Prerequisite(s): MCB 52
Meetings: Tu., Th., 1:00 - 2:30, and a one hour lab section per week
MCB 80. Neurobiology of Behavior
Catalog Number: 6052  View Course Website
Term: Fall Term 2013-2014.   Credit: Half course.
Instructors: David Cox, Jeff Lichtman, Joshua Sanes
Course Level: Primarily for Undergraduates
Description: An introduction to the ways in which the brain controls mental activities. The course covers the cells and signals that process and transmit information, and the ways in which neurons form circuits that change with experience. Topics include the neurobiology of perception, learning, memory, language, emotion, and mental illness.
Note: This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the General Education requirement for Science of Living Systems or the Core area requirement for Science B. The course is open to students with little formal training in biology.
Meetings: Tu., Th., 10-11:30
MCB 206. Introduction to Connectomics
Catalog Number: 2303  View Course Website
Term: [Spring Term 2014-2015.]   Credit: Half course.
Instructors: Jeff Lichtman, R. Reid
Course Level: Primarily for Graduates
Description: Focuses on how the tools of connectomics (nanoscale imaging, nanoscale and microscale cutting, fluorescent and electron-dense staining, image analysis algorithms) generate data about neural connectivity. Case studies: C. elegans, neuromuscular junction, retina, cortex.
Note: This course will be taught by Harvard and MIT faculty, alternating meeting locations on both the Harvard and MIT campuses.
Meetings: Tu., 3:30-6:30
MCB 208. Talking about Science
Catalog Number: 3605  View Course Website
Term: Fall Term 2013-2014.   Credit: Half course.
Instructors: Michael Greenberg, Jeff Lichtman
Course Level: Primarily for Graduates
Description: Teaches advanced students how to give a good research talk while exposing them to seminal scientific discoveries. Emphasis will be on speaking style, lecture organization, and use of video projection tools.
Note: In addition to lecture material from the instructor, students will present experiments from Nobel Prize-winning work. The presentations will be critiqued in class by the participants. Open to second year graduate students or with permission of the instructor.
Meetings: W., 5-7:30 p.m.
MCB 367. Structural Studies of Synapses
Catalog Number: 1850  View Course Website
Term: Fall Term; Repeated Spring Term 2013-2014.   Credit: Half course.
Instructor: Jeff Lichtman
Course Level: Graduate Course
(View all MCB Courses)


I am interested in the mechanisms that underlie synaptic competition between neurons that innervate the same target cell. Such competitive interactions are responsible for sharpening the patterns of neural connections during development and may also be important in learning and memory formation. My laboratory studies synaptic competition by visualizing synaptic rearrangements directly in living animals using modern optical imaging techniques. We have concentrated on neuromuscular junctions in a very accessible neck muscle in mice where new transgenic animals and other labeling strategies allow individual nerve terminals and postsynaptic specializations to be monitored over hours or months. In addition, we have developed several new methods to improve our ability to resolve synaptic structure.


Bishop DL, Misgeld T, Walsh MK, Gan WB, Lichtman JW. Axon Branch Removal at Developing Synapses by Axosome Shedding. Neuron. 2004 44:651-661. [Figures and Movies]

Kasthuri N, Lichtman JW. The role of neuronal identity in synaptic competition. Nature. 2003 424:426-30.

Buffelli M, Burgess RW, Feng G, Lobe CG, Lichtman JW, Sanes JR.Genetic evidence that relative synaptic efficacy biases the outcome of synaptic competition. Nature. 2003 424:430-4.

Walsh MK, Lichtman JW. In vivo time-lapse imaging of  synaptic takeover associated with naturally occurring synapse  elimination. Neuron. 2003 37:67-73.

Akaaboune M, Culican SM, Turney SG, Lichtman JW. Rapid and reversible effects of activity on acetylcholine receptor density at the neuromuscular junction in vivo. Science. 1999 286:503-7.

Gan WB, Lichtman JW. Synaptic segregation at the developing neuromuscular junction. Science. 1998 282:1508-11.

Nguyen QT, Parsadanian AS, Snider WD, Lichtman JW. Hyperinnervation of neuromuscular junctions caused by GDNF overexpression in muscle. Science. 1998 279:1725-9.

Colman H, Nabekura J, Lichtman JW. Alterations in synaptic strength preceding axon withdrawal. Science. 1997 275:356-61.

Balice-Gordon RJ, Lichtman JW. Long-term synapse loss induced by focal blockade of postsynaptic receptors. Nature.1994 372:519-24.   



updated: 04/22/2014