I am currently teaching full time but my research projects over many years have included cell biology, pharmacology and neuroscience. My most recent research (1996 - 2013) was in Kevin Jones’ lab studying the role that BDNF plays in the development and maintenance of the central nervous system. Using conditional forebrain-specific BDNF knock-out mice, I compared behavioral and neuroanatomical defects in late-onset and early-onset forebrain mutants. We found that continued expression of BDNF in the forebrain of the adult mouse is essential for normal neuroanatomy (especially spine density on cortical neurons) and behaviors (including spatial learning and depression). These observations are consistent with the hypothesis that reduced levels of BDNF in the adult human forebrain may contribute to synapse loss, and eventually to the cognitive impairment and neuronal atrophy that occur in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Neurobiology, development of the nervous system, maintenance of synaptic connections in the adult brain, neurodegeneration