Team Member Spotlight Series: Baljit S. Khakh, PhD

January 14, 2020

Bal S. Khakh, PhD

Academic titles: Professor of Physiology and Neurobiology, Department of Physiology, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine 

Research Focus

Bal Khakh and his team study brain cells called astrocytes, an understudied component of the central nervous system. Astrocytes consist of:

a main cell body
major and minor branches coming off this cell body
thick blood vessel-associated end feet

In many brain diseases, portions of these astrocyte features change, and the cause of this dysfunction is one of the questions Bal and his team look to answer. Uncertainty surrounds the contributions of astrocytes to neural circuit function, their role in the development and progression of brain diseases, and the importance of their complex morphology for brain function.

Depression Grand Challenge Connection

The research Bal and his team is conducting aligns well with the Depression Grand Challenge (DGC), as he is working to understand fundamental mechanisms of brain function. This greater knowledge of neuroscience will help the DGC understand some of the factors that contribute to depression. Astrocyte biology is one component that can contribute to these breakthroughs. Bal is inspired by the potential impact of the DGC on all aspects of society in a positive way.


Bal likes to spend his free time outdoors, going on walks with his dogs, Abba and Tulsi, and tending to his succulent garden.  He also considers himself an amateur historian, with a focus on Punjabi military history from ~1700-1947. He loves to go to his lab on holidays when it is quiet and peaceful.

“It’s important to think big and dream in our quest to tackle major problems affecting human health and society.”

Learn more about the UCLA Depression Grand Challenge Team Member Spotlight Series.