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Biochemical Mechanisms of Learning, Memory, and Memory Disorders

J. David Sweatt, Ph.D.
Professor and Chairman, Department of Pharmacology
Allan D. Bass Chair in Pharmacology
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
422 Robinson Research Building
Nashville, TN 37232-6600
615-343-3533 (office)

Our interest is in understanding the biochemical mechanisms underlying learning and memory. One of the major advances in neurobiology in the last century was the formulation of the general theory that changes in synaptic connections between neurons underlie information storage in the CNS. From our perspective one powerful offshoot of this general theory is that it allows a reductionist approach, that is, that by studying the mechanisms of long-lasting synaptic plasticity in vitro we can generate insights into the mechanisms of learning and memory in vivo. Using this rationale, for the last decade my laboratory has been investigating the biochemical mechanisms subserving the induction and maintenance of long-term potentiation in the hippocampus. In broad terms, our future scientific goal is to capitalize upon our recent insights into the signal transduction mechanisms operating in hippocampal synaptic plasticity; we will do this by utilizing a multidisciplinary approach combining in vitro biochemistry, electrophysiology, immunohistochemistry, and behavioral assays. We will use both pharmacologic and genetic experimental manipulations in order to investigate both the molecular basis of normal learning and the biochemical derangements that underlie pathological conditions affecting learning and memory.

For more information, please visit the lab website.