Associate Research Scientist, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
Aging is often associated with decline in cognitive function, particularly in the domain of memory. Both aging and memory decline are important risk factors for the development of Alzheimer’s disease, a neurodegenerative condition of increasing prevalence. Studies of elderly individuals, however, have demonstrated a range of memory ability such that a substantial portion perform within the normal range of young adults and can retain intact memory function to very old ages. Uncovering the neurobiological differences between aged individuals with intact memory and their memory-impaired counterparts will give a better understanding of the mechanistic drivers of impairment and assist in developing therapeutic interventions to target memory decline.
Working in the laboratory of Dr. Michela Gallagher, my research examines brain gene expression patterns in an aged rat model that recapitulates the variability of memory performance seen in humans. Using high throughput microarray technology we have discovered patterns of gene expression unique to aged individuals with good memory, suggesting that retaining memory function with age requires adaptation of mechanisms typical of younger individuals. My ongoing research explores the regulation of unique gene patterns in relationship to performance on a variety of behavioral tasks and neuronal activity. In a recent collaboration with Dr. Jay Baraban, we are expanding our studies to investigate the role of microRNAs that regulate the downstream translation of mRNA in synaptic plasticity and learning in our aged model.