Ph.D. 1989, University of Minnesota
KEYWORDS: Aging, Learning, Memory, NMDA Receptors, Glutamate Receptors
I'm an aging neuroscientist, interested in how we can prevent or repair the declines that occur during aging in learning and memory ability. I'm hoping to figure this out before I forget what the question is.
We've been characterizing changes in the expression of a receptor that is very important for the formation of memories, the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor. This receptor uses glutamate as a transmitter.The NMDA receptor shows greater declines in binding of glutamate with increased age than any of the other glutamate receptors. We've found relationships between NMDA receptor binding and expressions of two NMDA receptor subunits, epsilon2 (NR2B) and epsilon1 (NR2A), during aging. We've also shown associations between age-related changes in NMDA binding densities and subunit expressions and declines in both working and reference memory ability.
We are continuing to characterize the changes that occur in the NMDA receptor with increasing age. We are planning to look at the functional consequences of decreased expression of the epsilon2 (NR2B) subunit, specific changes in the splice variants of the zeta1 (NR1) subunit, and the different effects of exercise, learning and caloric restriction on NMDA receptor expression. We are also trying to determine exactly what role NMDA receptors in the prefrontal cortex play in different forms of memory. Ultimately we want to discover the mechanisms underlying the age-related changes in the NMDA receptor.
The lab's main goal is to find interventions into aging that will help to maintain the quality of life into old age. We're also interested in helping to better understand the function of the NMDA receptor in different brain regions.