Neurobiology News

Congratulations to Neurobiology graduate student Kavitha Abiraman for her work that shows how AMPA receptors are regulated at synapses. AMPA receptors are the major class of glutamate receptors that mediate excitatory synaptic transmission, and Kavitha helped to show that a protein called Porcupine regulates their composition and functional properties in a manner important for setting the strength of excitatory synaptic transmission. Kavitha is the co-first author on the paper published in Cell Reports, along with her mentor Jacques Wadiche and their collaborators from Yale University, the University of Dusseldorf, and the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. A link to their paper is here:

Journal of Neuroscience


-The Civitan International/Simpson-Ramsey Neurodevelopmental Symposium will be held April 21 - 22, 2016 at the UAB Alumni Building.  The two day event will consist of lectures and a poster session presenting the latest findings on various topics regarding developmental and intellectual disabilities. 
-Researchers will discuss recent progress and a panel of experts in the fields of genetics, animal models of developmental disorders, brain imaging and clinical practice will present their research findings.  The event will stimulate productive discussions in the basic and clinical sciences and promote collaborations to develop new, more effective therapies. 
-Registration will open soon.

Dr. Selwyn Vickers and Dr. Anupam Agarwal are pleased to announce the selection of Dr. Jeremy Day as one of the Pittman Scholars in the UAB School of Medicine. The Pittman Scholars was created to honor the legacy of Dr. James A. Pittman, Jr., the longest-serving dean in UAB’s history. Dr. Pittman was an outstanding physician, scientist, teacher, and mentor. Dr. Pittman’s impact on medicine continues today due to his dedication to science.

Jeremy was selected from an outstanding group of applicants, all of which have promising futures ahead.

Join in congratulating Jeremy in his latest honor!
Top 100 Stories of 2015


Neurons Alter DNA All Day, Every Day

They turn certain genes on and off when forming memories.

By Andy Berger|Monday, November 30, 2015

          RELATED TAGS:            MENTAL HEALTH




The brain is quite the circus act: It constantly juggles the complex job of processing a daily barrage of new experiences with the equally daunting task of storing memories. But scientists never understood how it managed to pull this off. Now, two studies published in June reveal it’s because neurons, brain cells that transmit messages, alter their DNA constantly.

The trick is methylation and demethylation — adding and removing chemical tags called methyl groups to specific locations on DNA that turn genes on and off without editing the genetic code itself.

Researchers recently discovered that adult mouse neurons methylate and demethylate — startling, since experts thought methylation happened only during brain development and then became permanent, to establish cells’ identities. Given these findings, University of Alabama at Birmingham neurobiologist David Sweatt and Johns Hopkins University neurobiologist Hongjun Song wondered if methyl groups affected long-term memory formation.

The researchers knew that neurons fire at a steady rate to form memories but also that new experiences can overstimulate them. To mimic a learning experience and see how neurons keep their activity in check, each team tweaked rat or mouse neurons’ firing rates, genetically or with drugs. To cope, the neurons used methylation and demethylation like a volume knob, constantly adjusting the signal strength of connected neurons by turning on or off the genes that make the signal receptors. This knowledge brings us one step closer to understanding memory at the molecular level.