Michelle M. Nicolle, PhD
Our broad interest is to understand the neurobiological changes that occur in the aged and diseased brain that contribute to cognitive decline. Using rodent models of normal aging and neurodegenerative disease, we combine behavioral and neurobiological assessment within the same animals to determine the relationship between brain changes and cognitive status. Of particular interest is the effects of age and disease on the types of memory that depend upon the function of the hippocampus, a brain structure that plays an important role in the type of memory that is disrupted in normal aging and Alzheimer's disease. Behavioral assessment in mice is also being used to determine if drugs of potential therapeutic value in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease are able to prevent the development of cognitive deficits in a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. The neurobiological parameters that are being investigated in these behaviorally characterized young and aged rodents include measurements of neuron function, particularly receptor-mediated phosphoinositide turnover, and the oxidative status of signaling proteins within the hippocampus.