Gina Poe, Ph.D.
1032 Terasaki Life Sciences Building
Los Angeles, CA 90095-7239
(Campus Mail Code 723905)
The Poe lab investigates the mechanisms by which sleep traits serve learning and memory consolidation. Memories are encoded by the pattern of synaptic connections between neurons. We employ tetrode recording and optogenetic techniques in learning animals to see how neural patterns underlying learning are reactivated during sleep, and how activity during sleep influences the neural memory code. Both strengthening and weakening of synapses is important to the process of sculpting a network when we make new memories and integrate them into old schema. Results from our studies suggest that while synaptic strengthening can be efficiently accomplished during the waking learning process, the synaptic weakening part of memory integration requires conditions unique to sleep. The absence of noradrenaline during sleep spindles and REM sleep as well as the low levels of serotonin during REM sleep allow the brain to integrate new memories and to refresh and renew old synapses so that we are ready to build new associations the next waking period. Memory difficulties involved in post-traumatic stress disorder, Schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and even autism involve abnormalities in the sleep-dependent memory consolidation process that my lab studies. Keywords: Sleep, learning and memory, PTSD, memory consolidation, reconsolidation, REM sleep, sleep spindles, Norepinephrine, LTP, depotentiation, reversal learning, optogenetics, electrophysiology, tetrode recordings, hippocampus, prefrontal cortex.