Mature Adult Seeks Long-Term Relationship: Neural Maintenance in Adults and Old Age

As we age, our nervous system undergoes many deleterious alterations: sensory, motor and cognitive functions decrease, while the risk of disease increases. Although progress has been made in defining the pathogenesis of specific neurological diseases, the biological mechanisms responsible for healthy aging of the nervous system remain unknown.

To address this problem, we focus our studies on the aging of synapses. Synapses are key elements of neural circuitry, and age-related synaptic dysfunction may precipitate cognitive degeneration. Using retina and retinorecipient regions of brain, we have found that some neurons age more gracefully than others. These studies have begun to uncover the molecular pathways that regulate synaptic aging, including the energy homeostasis molecules LKB1 and AMPK. Current work seeks to further define how this pathway regulates cell and synaptic fate and discover additional molecules that play related roles. In parallel, we use this molecular information to test ways to attenuate neural changes.

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