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2014 Grants - Colgin
Does Theta-Gamma Stimulation Improve Memory in Alzheimer’s Disease Mice
Laura Colgin, Ph.D.
University of Texas at Austin
2014 New Investigator Research Grant
Scientists have known for many years that electrical activity in the brain often exhibits certain rhythms. These rhythms can be measured by electroencephalography (EEG) which records the electrical activity along an individual’s scalp. Two of these rhythms, theta and gamma rhythms, are known to be important for memory function and are changed in Alzheimer’s disease. Several clinical studies are underway to test whether memory function in people with Alzheimer’s disease can be improved by the use of deep-brain stimulation (DBS). Deep-brain stimulation is often described as a brain “pacemaker”, using thin electrodes that are implanted directly into specific brain regions and deliver defined electrical impulses. This electrical stimulation may help to restore normal brain rhythms, such as theta and gamma rhythms, and could subsequently impact an individual’s memory. However, little is known about how DBS will affect brain function, especially in the hippocampus, a region of the brain crucial for short-term memory and which is damaged in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Laura Colgin, Ph.D., and colleagues have proposed to study how stimulation, like that in DBS, to the hippocampus affects the theta and gamma rhythms. The research team will measure the impact on memory formation in mice that have been genetically altered to have an Alzheimer’s-like condition. They plan to stimulate the hippocampus using patterns of activity that mimic those seen in healthy mice during learning and memory processes. The researchers will then test whether such stimulation restores normal theta and gamma brain rhythms, and whether there is an effect on behavior and memory formation in the Alzheimer’s-like mice. These studies may help researchers develop more effective and safe procedures for DBS as a possible tool to help preserve or improve memory function, or slow the rate of memory decline in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.