Program Head, Neuroscience BS
PhD, The University of Virginia
Neurobiology of Learning and Memory
Information acquired during daily encounters is not readily encoded into memory, but requires some effort or rehearsal to be preserved. In contrast, experiences that are either arousing or emotionally meaningful in content appear to be permanently stored into memory without conscious effort. My research is aimed at understanding the effect of emotional arousal on memory storage. Research findings to date indicate that events that are sufficiently arousing to be remembered for the long-term lead to activation of the amygdala. This amygdala activation may, in turn, initiate long-term memory storage by influencing synaptic strength in other areas of the brain, such as the hippocampus and cortex. Our current studies examine how emotion-induced amygdala activity may modulate the expression of synaptic proteins in areas that underlie memory storage.
This research is aimed at gaining a better understanding of the neuronal signals that determine whether a memory will be stored for the long term, and may shed some light on the precise mechanisms involved in the synaptic changes that underlie memory. Such knowledge may ultimately be used to benefit individuals suffering from various memory and anxiety disorders including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Peña DF, Childs JE, Willett S, Vital A, McIntyre CK, Kroener S. Vagus nerve stimulation enhances extinction of conditioned fear and modulates plasticity in the pathway from the ventromedial prefrontal cortex to the amygdala. Front Behav Neurosci. 2014 Sep 18;8:327. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00327.
McReynolds JR, Anderson KM, Donowho KM, McIntyre CK. Noradrenergic actions in the basolateral complex of the amygdala modulate Arc expression in hippocampal synapses and consolidation of aversive and non-aversive memory. Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2014 Sep 6. pii: S1074-7427(14)00162-2. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2014.08.016. [Epub ahead of print] PMID:25196704.
McReynolds JR, Holloway-Erickson CM, Parmar TU, McIntyre CK. Corticosterone-induced enhancement of memory and synaptic Arc protein in the medial prefrontal cortex. Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2014 Jul;112:148-57. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2014.02.007. Epub 2014 Mar 3.PMID:24603007.