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Psychological Science
2018 Project Proposal

Astrocytes in cognition: Potential targets for neurodegenerative diseases*

Lori Newman (Psychological Science)

Over the last century, the role of neurons in communicating information has been the focus of the majority of neuroscience research due to their unique electrical capabilities allowing for easy analysis of their activity. The other cells in the brain, known as glial cells were mostly thought of as support for the neurons, literally deriving their name from the Greek for glue, as they were merely thought to hold the brain together. Recently, a focus on the role of glial cells, particularly astrocytes in brain function has begun to emerge as a potential new target for therapeutics after finding that subtle manipulations of astrocytic function can greatly affect learning and memory (Newman, Korol & Gold, 2011). The purpose of this URSI project is to understand the basic science behind the role of astrocytes in recycling glutamate (the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain) and providing metabolic resources during cognition. Using pharmacological manipulations specific to astrocytes, we will explore what effects manipulation of glutamate recycling has on executive function. This project is ongoing and is expected to span multiple semesters.  Students interested in neuroscience, medicine, or psychology are encouraged to apply.  

Prerequisites:  Pysc/Neur241; Psyc200; behavioral research experience    

How should students express their interest in this project?  If interested, please contact me via email (lnewman@vassar.edu) to set up a time to meet and discuss your interest in the project, your previous research experience, as well as the demands of the current project.