Dr Kevin Lee

BSc (Honours), PhD


I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Physiology and Centre for Brain Research, University of Auckland.

My research focuses on how principal cells of the brain called neurons talk to one another through sites called synapses, and how this communication is affected in various neurological disorders, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders, Huntington's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease and Neuroinflammation. My work utilises electrophysiology technique to record and measure the electrical activity of individual neurons, as well as the brain network activity and circuitry connection. Also, I apply imaging techniques (i.e. confocal microscopy) to confirm whether structural changes accompany any of the functional outcomes observed. 

I completed my PhD degree in 2015, looking at how synapse function and structure are altered in neurons that are expressing mutations found in Autism Spectrum Disorders (University of Auckland, Associate Professor Johanna Montgomery). In 2016, I joined Professor Bronwen Connor's lab (University of Auckland) as a postdoctoral research fellow and learned direct cell reprogramming technology, which permits the use of human neuron-like cells derived from skin cells of the patients. For 3 years in Connor's lab, I examined the function of neurons derived from skin cells of Huntington's Disease and Fragile X Syndrome. In 2018, I established an organotypic human brain slice culture platform. This research model allows the maintenance of live human brain tissues in a dish for a prolonged time. This culture technique is not yet available elsewhere in New Zealand, and only a few laboratories around the world have managed to succeed. Using this human-based model, I am currently investigating how neuroinflammation affects neuronal physiology to better understand the disease mechanism underlying various neurodegenerative diseases (in collaboration with Professor Michael Dragunow and Associate Professor Johanna Montgomery). This work is currently supported by the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand.


Research | Current

  • Examining the potential of zinc supplementation as a treatment strategy in Autism Spectrum Disorders (with Associate Professor Johanna Montgomery [Principle Investigator])
  • Analysing the impact of systemic inflammation on the physiology and anatomy of human neurons (in collaboration with Associate Professor Johanna Montgomery and Professor Michael Dragunow)
  • Investigating how inflammation affects the physiology of pericyte, a cellular component of the blood-brain-barrier, and thus the cerebral blood flow during neurodegeneration (with Professor Michael Dragunow [Principle Investigator])

Postgraduate supervision


  • Mr Hamish Skelton-Kyd, Biomed Honours, 2020 (co-supervisor, with Associate Professor Johanna Montgomery and Dr Juliette Cheyne) 


  • Dr Yukti Vyas, PhD, 2020 (advisor)
  • Ms Bui Hoang Thu Trang, Summer Student, 2019/2020 (supervisor)

Areas of expertise

Synapse function, synapse plasticity, human neurophysiology, in vitro human neuronal culture, electrophysiology, confocal microscopy

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Vyas, Y., Lee, K., Jung, Y., & Montgomery, J. M. (2020). Influence of maternal zinc supplementation on the development of autism-associated behavioural and synaptic deficits in offspring Shank3-knockout mice. Molecular brain, 13 (1)10.1186/s13041-020-00650-0
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Yukti Vyas, Johanna Montgomery
  • Lee, K., Park, T. I.-H., Heppner, P., Schweder, P., Mee, E. W., Dragunow, M., & Montgomery, J. M. (2020). Human in vitro systems for examining synaptic function and plasticity in the brain. Journal of neurophysiology, 123 (3), 945-965. 10.1152/jn.00411.2019
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Thomas Park, Johanna Montgomery, Michael Dragunow
  • Lee, K., Vyas, Y., Garner, C. C., & Montgomery, J. M. (2019). Autism-associated Shank3 mutations alter mGluR expression and mGluR-dependent but not NMDA receptor-dependent long-term depression. Synapse (New York, N.Y.), 73 (8)10.1002/syn.22097
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/47216
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Johanna Montgomery, Yukti Vyas
  • Connor, B., Firmin, E., McCaughey-Chapman, A., Monk, R., Lee, K., Liot, S., ... Jones, K. (2018). Conversion of adult human fibroblasts into neural precursor cells using chemically modified mRNA. HELIYON, 4 (11)10.1016/j.heliyon.2018.e00918
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Bronwen Connor, Kathryn Jones
  • Fourie, C., Vyas, Y., Lee, K., Jung, Y., Garner, C. C., & Montgomery, J. M. (2018). Dietary Zinc Supplementation Prevents Autism Related Behaviors and Striatal Synaptic Dysfunction in Shank3 Exon 13-16 Mutant Mice. Frontiers in cellular neuroscience, 1210.3389/fncel.2018.00374
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Johanna Montgomery, Yukti Vyas
  • Park, T.-H., Schweder, P., Lee, K., Yung, Y.-W., Smyth, L., Dieriks, B., ... Curtis, M. (14/11/2017). Growing primary adult human neurons to study neurological diseases. Poster presented at INTR 2017, Port Douglas, Australia.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/43609
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Victor Dieriks, Richard Faull, Maurice Curtis, Johanna Montgomery, Michael Dragunow
  • Arons, M. H., Lee, K., Thynne, C. J., Kim, S. A., Schob, C., Kindler, S., ... Garner, C. C. (2016). Shank3 is part of a zinc-sensitive signalling system that regulates excitatory synaptic strength. Journal of Neuroscience, 36 (35), 9124-9134. 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0116-16.2016
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Johanna Montgomery
  • Lee, K., Goodman, L., Fourie, C., Schenk, S., Leitch, B., & Montgomery, J. M. (2016). AMPA receptors as therapeutic targets for neurological disorders. In R. Donev (Ed.) Advances in protein chemistry and structural biology (pp. 203-261). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Elsevier. 10.1016/bs.apcsb.2015.10.004
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Johanna Montgomery

Contact details

Primary office location

M&HS BUILDING 503 - Bldg 503
Level 5, Room 501
New Zealand