Identifying Novel Synaptic Targets

Understanding synaptic function to advance knowledge toward new therapeutic strategies for disorders associated with cognitive impairment

Full Project Name:Identifying Novel Synaptic TargetsPrincipal Investigator:Nashaat Gerges, PhD, Cell Biology, Neurobiology and AnatomyAward Amount:300,000
Award Date
September2010
Project Duration:36 months

Project Description Narrative:


The brain has trillions of synapses that relay messages between neurons. The ability of these synapses to change their strength and remodel is termed synaptic plasticity. Today, there is considerable evidence that synaptic plasticity is the cellular correlate of learning and memory. Several neurological and neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer's disease, which impacts an estimated 11% of Wisconsin residents age 65 and older, and schizophrenia) as well as some hormonal and homeostasis abnormalities (such as aging, hypothyroidism, stress) have some form of synaptic plasticity malfunction. Therefore, in order to understand and remedy the neurophysiology of these disorders, better understanding of the molecular mechanisms of synaptic plasticity is crucial.

Through this award, the investigator aims to better understand synaptic plasticity through the identification of novel synaptic targets and investigation of their role in synaptic function and open the door to new therapeutic strategies for disorders associated with cognitive impairment.

Outcomes & Lessons Learned:


• Identified two novel targets with high potential to be involved in the process of synaptic plasticity, • Documented results indicating that these two genes are essential for proper synaptic function, indicating that these genes are crucial for learning and memory. Findings are an important step toward understanding mental retardation, understanding the function of the brain in health and disease, and to understanding learning and memory

• Disseminated findings in the Journal of Neuroscience

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