Sara Prescott

Faculty Title: 

Assistant Professor of Biology; Affiliate Member, Picower Institute for Learning and Memory


Ph.D., 2016, Stanford University School of Medicine BA, 2008, Molecular Biology, Princeton University


  • Biology



Phone Number: 



Faculty Bio: 

Dr. Prescott received a B.A. in Molecular Biology from Princeton University in 2008, and a Ph.D. in Developmental Biology from the Stanford School of Medicine in 2016. Afterwards, she completed her postdoctoral work at Harvard Medical School in the lab of Stephen Liberles studying sensory biology and principles of interoception using the mouse vagus nerve model. Since starting as an Assistant Professor at MIT in 2022, her lab uses genetic, genomic and molecular approaches to explore neural circuits that monitor changes in internal states and regulate mammalian homeostasis.

Research Areas: 

Research Summary: 

The nervous system defines who we are. In the brain, neurons function to shape our thoughts, perceptions and behaviors. In our bodies, neurons control organs to regulate our most basic needs like breathing, heart rate and digestion. In our lab, we seek to understand how neurons sense changes in bodily states to control autonomic functions which maintain human life. For example, artery-innervating neurons detect deviations in blood pH and oxygen levels, and in turn reflexively engage central respiratory circuits that correct breathing rate and blood gas composition on a breath-to-breath basis. Despite their importance, the functional organization and molecular architecture of these essential circuits remain poorly defined, with many body-to-brain pathways still undiscovered. By combining in vitro and in vivo modeling with modern genomic and neuroscience tools, we aim to uncover ground truths about how the body uses the nervous system to safeguard itself from recurring assaults and how these pathways go awry in disease. We focus on understanding this signaling across many biological scales—from neuronal gene regulation, to receptor profiling, to circuit mapping, to whole animal disease modeling and physiology—with the hope of providing new therapeutic avenues to improve human autonomic health.