Memories powerfully influence future behavior and emotional responses. Dysfunction of memory processes, leading to either impaired or exaggerated memories, is central to a number of neurological and psychiatric disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias, and addiction.
My research focuses on the molecular mechanisms of learning and memory, and how modulation of these processes by events such as stress and illness cause altered memory storage, maintenance, or retrieval.
In the lab, we use behavioral models of learning and memory in mice, combined with analysis of levels/activity of specific proteins within the hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex to study (1) the molecular mechanisms of memory storage and maintenance; (2) the modulation of memory by stress, illness, and inflammation; and (3) the role of memory dysregulation in disorders of emotion and motivation, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression.
Some of the questions I aim to address in my ongoing research are:
« What are the intracellular signaling mechanisms by which stress alters memory storage or retrieval?
« What are the molecular mechanisms by which illness and inflammation cause changes in memory processes?
« What is the role of cytokines (and other immune system proteins) in the modulation of memory, fear, and depression-like behavior?
« What interventions can prevent enhancement or impairment of memory by stress or inflammation?
« How does retrieval of a memory trigger affect the ongoing maintenance of that memory?
« What are the molecular mechanisms underlying complex learning tasks?
« How can studying molecular mechanisms contribute to understanding memory processes and improve theoretical constructs of memory?