I am an aging neuroscientist, interested in how we can prevent or repair the declines that occur during aging in learning and memory ability. I am hoping to figure this out before I forget what the question is.
We have 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, affecting both short- and long-term memory. Ultimately, we want to discover the mechanisms underlying the age-related changes in the NMDA receptor.
In order to enhance the translation of our work, we have recently developed a virtual water maze for testing human subjects. This task is designed to be similar to the water maze task that we use to assess memory in mice. We believe that this will enhance our ability to transition from screening interventions in mice to testing them in humans, by using the same task.
Recently, we have also begun to examine the role of that the gut microbiota and high energy diets play in cognitive abilities. We have found that animals fed a high sucrose diet show deficits in early learning and those fed either a high fat or high sucrose diet have trouble with cognitive flexibility. Certain alterations in the composition of the gut microbiota showed relationships to these cognitive problems. We are pursuing evidence of whether these deficits are due to diet alone or the microbiota.
Zamzow DR, Elias V, Acosta V, Escobedo E, and Magnusson KR (2019) Higher levels of protein palmitoylation in the frontal cortex across aging were associated with reference memory and executive function declines. eNeuro
Reynolds NC, Zhong JY, Clendinen CA, Moffat SD, and Magnusson KR(2019) Age-related differences in brain activations during spatial memory formation in a well-learned virtual Morris water maze (vMWM) task. NeuroImage 116069. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.116069
García-Jaramillo M, Beaver LM, Truong L, Axton ER, Keller RM, Prater MC, Magnusson KR, Tanquay RL, Stevens JF, and Hord NG (2020) Nitrate and nitrite exposure leads to mild anxiogenic-like behavior and alters brain metabolomic profile in zebrafish. PLoS ONE 15(12): e0240070.
Wong C, Magnusson KR, Sharpton T, and Ho E. (2021). Effects of zinc status on age-related T cell dysfunction and chronic inflammation. BioMetals. 1-11. 10.1007/s10534-020-00279-5.