Journal of Undergraduate Research


endocannabinoid receptor GPR55, learning and memory, Alzheimer's disease


Life Sciences


Physiology and Developmental Biology


Each year millions of people are affected by Alzheimer’s disease, one of the most common forms of dementia. Extensive research has shown that Alzheimer’s affects the hippocampus, the part of the brain principally responsible for learning and memory. The mechanisms responsible for learning and memory are just beginning to be elucidated, and a more comprehensive knowledge of them will be essential in order to understand the brain under normal situations as well as in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Studies in this area have sought to understand the causes and treatments of disease, but so far both the underlying physiology and mechanisms remain a mystery. Thus far, it has been shown that to encode memories, the brain makes modifications to the synapses between neurons, either to strengthen them or weaken them. This is known as Synaptic Plasticity. Using electrophysiological techniques (Figure 1) on mouse hippocampal slices (a close model to the human brain), this project has provided further insight into memory formation and regulation by replicating mechanisms responsible for synaptic plasticity in a quantifiable manner. My research looked specifically at g-protein coupled receptor 55 (GPR55) that has recently been shown to mediate synaptic plasticity. Better understanding the GPR55 pathway will contribute to the understanding and treatments of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

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