The Civitan International Research Center (CIRC) at UAB welcomes Bioinformatics Specialist Dr. Lara Ianov to the  Neurodevelopmental Bioinformatics Initiative. Lara obtained a Ph.D. in Genetics and Genomics from the University of Florida in 2017, working with Dr. Thomas Foster. Lara has considerable formal training in genetics, neuroscience, DNA sequencing approaches, and bioinformatics analyses. As part of the CIRC, Lara will provide assistance to researchers in the UAB neuroscience community in design, execution, and analysis of high-throughput, whole-genome sequencing approaches.

Editors' choice: The brain-penetrant BDNF loop domain mimetic LM22A-4 improves synaptic plasticity and spatial discrimination memory in Rett syndrome mice, making it a promising therapeutic candidate for the treatment of hippocampal dysfunction.

The Company of Biologists

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By Bob Shepard
June 29, 2017

New McKnight Chair Ronald M. Lazar, Ph.D., has joined the University of Alabama at Birmingham as director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute in the School of Medicine and will hold the Evelyn F. McKnight Endowed Chair for Learning and Memory in Aging in the Department of Neurology.Lazar comes to UAB from Columbia University Medical Center, where he was a professor of neuropsychology.

UAB is home to one of four McKnight Brain Institutes in the nation. They are devoted to translating discoveries from basic biomedical research into processes and products to minimize the deleterious effects of aging on learning and memory in humans.

The UAB McKnight Institute currently has 30 investigators and Lazar intends to expand the faculty base through support of pilot research projects, educational symposia and seminars, attendance at conferences, and collaborations with investigators at other institutions. He also will work to recruit new investigators to UAB.

“What drew me to UAB was the collaborative spirit that permeates this university,” Lazar said. “There is widespread understanding here that research is best done with contributions from many individuals who provide different perspectives. Employing multiple investigators from diverse disciplines is how we will move this field forward.”

Lazar says the Institute brings together basic scientists, translational researchers and clinical research to better understand memory and memory dysfunction and to develop new treatments for aging-related memory disorders.

“The McKnight Brain Institute represents a unified scientific and clinical focus on aging-related memory dysfunction, and also houses a core of investigators of the absolute highest quality,” Lazar said. “This provides the initiative and momentum for the continued development of the McKnight Brain Institute as a pre-eminent locale for aging-related memory research in the United States. We are grateful to the McKnight Brain Research Foundation for making this endeavor possible.”

Erik Roberson, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in the departments of Neurology and Neurobiology and Patsy W. and Charles A. Collat Professor of Neuroscience, is co-director of the McKnight Brain Institute.
It is always a big deal when a researcher gets their first paper published. It is also a big deal when your work gets the cover of a journal.  Corey Duke just published a first author paper and got the cover!  Corey’s research is featured in the July 2017 issue of Learning & Memory.    He is a MD/PHD student in the lab of Dr. Jeremy Day, in the Department of Neurobiology.

Experience-dependent epigenomic reorganization in the hippocampus

  1. Corey G. Duke1,
  2. Andrew J. Kennedy2,
  3. Cristin F. Gavin1,
  4. Jeremy J. Day1 and
  5. David Sweatt3
+ Author Affiliations

  1. 1Department of Neurobiology, Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama 35294, USA
  2. 2Department of Chemistry, Bates College, Lewiston, Maine 04240, USA
  3. 3Department of Pharmacology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee 37235, USA
  4. Corresponding authors: jjday@uab.edu; sweatt@vanderbilt.edu

Using a hippocampus-dependent contextual threat learning and memory task, we report widespread, coordinated DNA methylation changes in CA1 hippocampus of Sprague-Dawley rats specific to threat learning at genes involved in synaptic transmission. Experience-dependent alternations in gene expression and DNA methylation were observed as early as 1 h following memory acquisition and became more pronounced after 24 h. Gene ontology analysis revealed significant enrichment of functional categories related to synaptic transmission in genes that were hypomethylated at 24 h following threat learning. Integration of these data sets with previously characterized epigenetic and transcriptional changes in brain disease states suggested significant overlap between genes regulated by memory formation and genes altered in memory-related neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases. These findings provide a comprehensive resource to aid in the identification of memory-relevant therapeutic targets. Our results shed new light on the gene expression and DNA methylation changes involved in memory formation, confirming that these processes are dynamic and experience-dependent. Finally, this work provides a roadmap for future studies to identify linkage of memory-associated genes to altered disease states.


  1. [Supplemental material is available for this article.]
  2. Article is online at http://www.learnmem.org/cgi/doi/10.1101/lm.045112.117.
  1. Received January 23, 2017.
  2. Accepted April 12, 2017.
  1. © 2017 Duke et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press 
  2. This article is distributed exclusively by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press for the first 12 months after the full-issue publication date (see http://learnmem.cshlp.org/site/misc/terms.xhtml). After 12 months, it is available under a Creative Commons License (Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International), as described at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.
Two local men, Bennett Fisher and William Wells, are doing a 100-day hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, traveling from the southern border of California to the northern border of Washington state. It is a fund raiser in honor of Julie Grace Carroll, who is living with Rett Syndrome. Monies raised will be donated to Rett Syndrome research.