Research Summary

Genetically encoding an in vivo tag of synaptic plasticity associated with memory

The goal of my current research is to understand the nature of memory.  Due to the complexity of the mammalian brain, it has proven challenging to identify key sites of change associated with memory.  Isolating and probing these key sites in the rodent brain would be instrumental in determining whether or not the changes long known to be associated with memory are in fact the cause of memory.  In recent years, several groups have developed genetically-encoded methods for identifying the neurons whose activity is associated with memory recall.  However, such methods still leave open the question: at which sites within these neural circuits are the memories actually stored?  To address this question, I have created an innovative genetically-encoded technique for visualizing the specific neural connections that have undergone modifications believed to underlie memory.  Once this technique has been proven to be effective in rodent neurons cultured in a petri dish, I will apply the same principals to live animals.  Again using rodents, I will begin to examine if and how the specific neural connections associated with memory differ given the circumstances of the rodent’s experience.