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Can We Make Memories Resistant to Alzheimer's? Dr. Hugo Lehmann & Trent Students Tackle the Question

NSERC funded research provides opportunities for students interested in psychology and neuroscience

There is a competition going on between our brain structures, impacting how we store memories. At Trent, and together with his students, Psychology’s Dr. Hugo Lehmann, is taking a closer look at this competition in the hopes of finding ways to make memories more resistant to brain damage caused by trauma or ailments, including Alzheimer’s, epilepsy or stroke.

“This research will improve our understanding of the nature of memory deficits observed in degenerative memory disorders and diseases and will ultimately add to Canada’s expertise in treating and caring for brain-damaged patients,” reveals Professor Lehmann.

Building resistance again and again
The hippocampus is a part of our brain that is vulnerable to insult and neurodegenerative diseases. Damage to this critical memory site can cause severe memory loss. In Prof. Lehmann’s state-of-the-art behavioural neuroscience lab, his team is examining, in rodents, how memory reactivations, known as reinstatements, modify brain structures that support a memory.

The researchers are seeking to determine how reinstated memories are represented outside the hippocampus; conditions that strengthen these neural networks; and examine the brain plasticity that makes reinstated memories more resistant to brain damage. Thanks to recent funding support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the team hopes to demonstrate how to strongly form memories in other structures without requiring the hippocampus for successful recall.

Discovering meaningful research & a meaningful career
According to Prof. Lehmann, the project provides invaluable training to undergraduate and graduate students in behavioural neuroscience techniques such as histology, immunohistochemistry, stereological microscopy and brain surgery, as well as sophisticated behavioural and cognitive assessments. They also acquire theoretical knowledge and valuable experience in experimental conceptualization and design, data analysis, critical thinking, and dissemination of knowledge.

“I have always been fascinated by the complex networks that make the brain an incredible machine,” states M.Sc. Psychology student Lianne Brandt. “As a mentor, I assist undergraduate students in performing basic lab practices. As a Psychology student, I am learning how to conduct and communicate the most outstanding and relevant research. I have learned and strengthened specific, real-world skills that are transferable to many labs and research positions. My research and work with Prof. Lehmann will provide a foundation for success in many neuroscience research paths.”

“Trent provides a rich and exciting environment to conduct this project,” adds Prof. Lehmann.  “As a researcher and teacher, I discuss how we are resolving current issues within neuroscience and psychology with students and colleagues and will contribute to developing knowledgeable and skilled graduates who will pursue careers in psychology, neuroscience, physiology, medicine and nursing.”

Posted on December 10, 2018