Max Planck Florida will be able to expand their research program to investigate the neural circuits underlying Alzheimer’s disease with new support. The National Institute on Aging of the NIH has awarded Dr. Yingxue Wang $1,038,819 over three years as part of the Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative Fund. The research will shed new light on how the brain forms new memories and maintains them over time and what can lead to memory decline during Alzheimer’s Disease.
Turning our daily experiences into memories involves a brain region called the hippocampus. Among the many signals the hippocampus receives, cholinergic inputs from the basal forebrain are crucial for learning and memory. As we age, cholinergic inputs become less effective at generating a neuronal response and deteriorate in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. While scientists understand that cholinergic function is an integral part of memory formation, exactly how it impacts the hippocampal circuits remains largely unknown.
“We are excited and honored to receive this generous funding, which will significantly impact our ability to answer important questions about how we make and maintain memories,” said Dr. Wang. “This grant not only advances our research but symbolizes the collective hope that drives us to study this devastating condition. My lab and I are profoundly grateful for this trust and support.”
As part of this project, Dr. Wang will collaborate with Dr. Alex Roxin of the Centre de Recerca Matematica, Spain, who will be funded separately by the Spanish Research Agency, AEI.
Dr. Wang joined MPFI in 2018 and leads the Neuronal Mechanisms of Episodic Memory research group. Before that, she was a research scientist at the Janelia Research Campus of Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where she studied the hippocampal neuronal activities that represent memory traces.
Trained as an electrical engineer, Dr. Wang completed her graduate study at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ). During her Ph.D. training, she designed brain-inspired computational systems on silicon chips. These fully reconfigurable systems incorporated electronic circuits of a network of neurons with dendrites and synapses. Using these systems as simulation tools, she also investigated the computational principles native to a neuron with active dendrites.
Principals of engineering greatly inform Dr. Wang’s work at MPFI, which combines experimental techniques with computational modeling, enabling the Wang lab to accelerate the analysis of big data, and build models to better explain the experimental findings.
“When it comes to the brain there are so many questions remaining, and the answers cannot come fast enough. Adding this support from the NIH to MPFI’s already exceptional research resources will allow us to make greater progress toward understanding the role of these inputs in memory formation and stability,” she said.
Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01AG085899. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
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