Today, the SDRC goes international! This guest blog is form Ariel K. Frame, PhD Candidate from the neuroscience graduate program at Western University, London, Ontario, Canada. Ariel tells us about research and a desire to work in Scotland.
I am a neurobiologist passionate about Alzheimer’s disease research. Currently in the fourth year of my PhD under the supervision of Dr. Robert Cumming, my research focuses on the contribution of brain metabolism to aging and memory. Brain metabolism is paramount because of the enormous amount of energy required to fuel brain activity. How these needs are met and sustained across a lifetime is still being debated. What is known, is that neurons do not work alone. In the brain, glial cells are now recognized as major supporters and signalling partners for neurons. My work aims to explore the relative importance of producing a particular metabolite, lactate, in either neurons or glia. I am using transgenic mouse and fly models to tackle this question. There is evidence that lactate is shuttled from glia to neurons for long-term memory, but whether there are age-dependent changes to this system has not been deeply investigated. What about in Alzheimer’s disease? It is very typical to see brain hypometabolism during early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Some have attributed this to an inability of neurons to uptake glucose, but altered lactate metabolism could be partially responsible and current brain imaging methods rarely have the resolution required to tease apart glial contribution to the signal measured. Therefore, mechanistic studies are highly needed to elucidate where lactate plays a role and to what extent. Although my current work does not involve the use of traditional Alzheimer’s disease models, the findings of my research do have some implications for the study of Alzheimer’s disease. I believe a basic understanding of the metabolic component to normal cognitive aging can contribute greatly to our ability to determine which processes are perturbed in Alzheimer’s disease.
What about SDRC peaks my interest? I am highly motivated to take on a postdoctoral position studying Alzheimer’s disease in Scotland. As a Canadian, I know extra effort will be required to become involved in the Scottish research community across the ocean. I am impressed by SDRC’s efforts to build up the Scottish dementia research community and inspired to become a participant. I know that the best research is always done collaboratively. So, I understand how imperative SDRC’s ability to bridge connections between dementia researchers in Scotland is to the generation of quality science. Furthermore, I appreciate SDRC’s involvement in outreach and science communication. Letting people know about dementia research provides hope that someday a cure will be attainable and recognition of the support this research requires in order to achieve that goal. My contribution to outreach comes in the form of podcasting and participation in publicly available talks; including managing production of a podcast highlighting graduate student research, GradCast, and competing in the 3 minute thesis competition, 3MT. I hope to continue engaging in these avenues of outreach in Scotland in the future.