Understanding the molecular mechanisms mediating learning and memory is one of the most fascinating challenges facing neuroscience. These insights are needed to develop improved strategies for treating cognitive defects in a wide variety of neurological and psychiatric disorders. To store information, neurons change the efficiency of their connections with other neurons. Accordingly, a major focus of neuroscience research is to understand how intraneuronal signaling pathways orchestrate this process.
My laboratory has investigated several key signaling pathways central to this process, including the phosphoinositide system, the MAP kinase pathway and immediate early genes. More recently, my laboratory has focused on understanding how the microRNA system regulates synaptic function. In particular, we have identified the translin/trax RNAse complex, as a key component of the microRNA system in neurons. Furthermore, in collaboration with Dr. Ted Abel, we have demonstrated that this RNAse plays a critical role in synaptic plasticity and memory. Accordingly, we are also working with Drs. Gallagher and Haberman to assess the role of the microRNA system in neurocognitive aging.