Much of the work examines mechanisms that regulate - turn on and off, amplify and attenuate - the processes that initiate and maintain neural changes representing memory. For example, why do we remember salient events more readily than minor events? This lab has found that certain hormonal responses to an experience, particularly release of epinephrine into the circulation, control how well the memory for that experience will be remembered. Release of epinephrine initiates a physiological cascade that regulates neural plasticity, including increases in blood and brain glucose levels, release of neurotransmitters in the brain, and activation of transcription factors.
Currently, the laboratory is examining neurochemical, cellular and molecular events subsequent to the increases in circulating epinephrine and glucose levels that regulate neural plasticity, with focus on the hippocampus, amygdala, and striatum. These experiments include studies of protein synthesis, signal transduction molecules, transcription factors, and genomic and proteomic responses to the physiological mechanisms that regulate neural plasticity. One goal of the research is to identify drugs that enhance memory, particularly in conditions such as aging, Alzheimer's Disease, and Down syndrome. Another research stream examines effects of stress on multiple memory systems with application to drug abuse.
The laboratory uses interdisciplinary methods ranging from systems to molecular neuroscience: Behavior (learning and memory tasks for rats and mice); Neurophysiology (long-term potentiation); Neurochemistry (microdialysis and HPLC assessments of release of neurotransmitters (e.g., ACh, NE, DA, 5-HT), and peptide (BDNF) while rats and mice are learning; Cell and molecular biology (immunocytochemistry, quantitative western and ELISA analyses, e.g., CREB, hormones.
Key Research Areas:
Aging; cell signaling and communication; learning, memory, and plasticity; neurological and psychiatric conditions