Position title: Associate Professor
Phone: (608) 263-0301
73 Bardeen Medical Sciences Center
1300 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706
- Burger Lab
PhD, Neuroscience/Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado Health Sci Crt.
Postdoc, Molecular Neuroscience, State University of New York
Postdoc, Molecular Neuroscience, University of Florida
Molecular Neuroscience, Behavior: Cognition and aging, Neurobiology of Disease, synaptic plasticity
My research program examines the molecular and cellular mechanisms of learning and memory in aging, and gene therapy approaches for age related neurodegenerative disorders. We use viral gene delivery to study cognition, to create animal models for neurodegenerative disorders, and to identify gene therapies for Parkinson’s disease (PD) and cognitive aging.
My past work identified a number of genes in the hippocampus that are associated with cognitive aging. One of the focuses of my research program is to validate the role of these genes at the functional level using molecular biology, electrophysiology and behavioral approaches to accomplish our goal.
During the last few years my research group examined in detail (1) the role of one of the candidate genes I identified in a genome-wide screen (Homer1c) in cognition both early in life and with senescence, (2) carried out preclinical studies for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease (PD) using glial-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) and, (3) developed and optimized vectors for gene expression in the nervous system. Our ultimate goal is to translate our findings to the clinic by identifying potential gene replacement or pharmaceutical treatments for neurodegenerative disorders
My primary goal is to continue my research in cognitive aging. We are in a position to provide novel insights regarding the mechanism underlying impaired learning and memory and provide new avenues for treatment and prevention. Viral gene transfer allows us to ask specific questions about brain circuitry, signaling cascades, and timing of protein expression. By over-expressing or knocking down a given gene, we can expect to see opposite effects. In addition, we can inject the viral vectors between training and testing, to ask questions about consolidation/retrieval. Finally, because we have spatial control over injection sites, we are able to dissect brain circuits at the molecular level. The long-term goal in my research is to use these innovative approaches to elucidate the molecular and cellular pathways involved in learning, memory and aging.
Last, my long experience in the creation of genetic models of PD and development of gene therapy approaches to treat PD has allowed me to carry out preclinical studies for gene therapy in this disease. Our results will be published shortly and will likely have an impact on future human PD gene therapy treatment trials. We are funded by the Kinetics Foundation to develop optimal gene therapy treatments for PD and to improve gene targeting and regulation of transgene expression using regulatable vectors. Translation of the findings in my lab into the clinic is a significant aspect of my research program.