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UTSA biology research could lead to treatments for PTSD and Alzheimer's

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(Dec. 15, 2009)--Led by Joe L. Martinez Jr., UTSA Ewing Halsell Distinguished Chair in Biology, a team of UTSA researchers found that radiation therapy can prevent the brain from forming some types of fearful memories. Further research may lead to treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder and Alzheimer's disease.

Radiation therapy reduces the number of new granule cells in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for autobiographical memory. Cranial irradiation, or radiation of the skull, is commonly used as a treatment to prevent cancer from spreading to the brain. However, long-term cognitive impairments, such as the inability to learn or remember new tasks, often occur as a result of the procedure.

The researchers tested the ability of rats to form three types of fear memories: delay fear memories, context fear memories and trace fear memories. Delay fear memories form when a fearful situation occurs simultaneously with another event. Context fear memories form when a fearful situation follows another event and both take place in the same physical space. Trace fear memories form when an event and a fearful situation are separated by a pause.

Combining biological and psychological approaches in the laboratory, the researchers observed the behavior of rats not producing new granule cells in their brains. The researchers observed that the rats were able to form delay and fear memories but were unable to form trace fear memories. The findings led them to believe that new granule cells are not required in the hippocampus of the brain to form delay and context fear memories but are required for the formation of trace fear memories.

"This research has broad applications including treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder and Alzheimer's disease," said Martinez. "If we can pinpoint the neurons in the hippocampus that are responsible for storing trace fear memories, we may be able to selectively erase negative memories by decreasing the number of new granule cells in the brain. Or, we may be able to prevent memory loss by preventing the death of new granule cells. Such therapies could definitely enhance an individual's life, but we have a long way to go before we put the theory into practice."

 

 

Events

Friday, May 6, 8 p.m.

First Friday Stargazing

The UTSA Department of Physics and Astronomy, Curtis Vaughan Observatory invites everyone to join them for their monthly stargazing event on top of the Flawn Science Building.
Curtis Vaughan Observatory, Main Campus

Sunday, May 8, 1 p.m.

Accordions Across Culture

May’s Free Second Sunday at the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures features "Accordions Across Cultures," with performances of Mexican, German and Czech accordion music, a documentary screening and crafts for the kids.
UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures

Monday, May 9, 8 a.m.

The Honeynet Project Workshop

This three-day event will focus on the tools, tactics and motives involved in computer and network attacks. Attendees from around the world will take part in world-class hands-on trainings and technical discussions.
H-E-B University Center Ballroom, Main Campus

Thursday, May 12, 4 p.m.

Master of Public Administration Open House

Visit with faculty, alumni and students to discuss the benefits of and requirements for a Master Degree in Public Administration and/or the Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Administration & Leadership.
Meeting Assembly Room (BVB 1.338), Downtown Campus

Saturday, May 14, 10 a.m.

UTSA Spring Commencement: Ceremony One

UTSA Spring Commencement ceremony for the College of Architecture, Construction and Planning, the College of Education and Human Development and the College of Sciences.
Alamodome

Saturday, May 14, 4 p.m.

UTSA Spring Commencement: Ceremony Two

UTSA Spring Commencement ceremony for the College of Business, the College of Public Policy and University College.
Alamodome

Sunday, May 15, 2 p.m.

UTSA Spring Commencement: Ceremony Three

UTSA Spring Commencement ceremony for the College of Engineering and the College of Liberal and Fine Arts.
Alamodome

Wednesday, May 18, 3 p.m.

The Great Staff Appreciation Event

The UTSA community is invited to honor the roughly 2,600 UTSA staff members who contribute to the success of the university and its students.
H-E-B University Center Ballroom, Main Campus

Thursday, May 19, 6 p.m.

Superintendent Certification Program Information Session

Join UTSA faculty and staff, current students, and area central office administrators/program alumni to learn about this exciting accelerated and web-enhanced program leading to Texas Superintendent Certification. The event is free and open to the public.
BVB 1.322, Downtown Campus


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