David Wozniak, PhD

Professor Emeritus, WashU Psychiatry

Role of NMDA receptors in neuropathologic changes and cognitive decline

A longstanding research interest of mine involves studying the role of NMDA glutamate receptors in learning and memory and in the neuropathologic changes and cognitive decline associated with aging and rodent models of Alzheimers disease. A more recent research focus involves the study of behavioral disturbances resulting from exposure to certain drugs of abuse (e.g., ethanol, phencyclidine) during the early neonatal period in rodents when synaptogenesis is ongoing. Specifically, treating rodents during the first postnatal week with certain classes of drugs such as those that block NMDA receptors or excessively activate GABAA receptors triggers widespread apoptotic neurodegeneration throughout the developing brain. Rodents treated with these drugs demonstrate severe behavioral and cognitive deficits, particularly during adolescence, although sometimes considerable recovery of function may occur during adulthood. Such research provides reasonable animal models for studying the fetal alcohol syndrome and other developmental neuropsychiatric disorders.

Other areas of interest have resulted from my directing the research activities of the Animal Behavior Core. Much of this work involves characterizing the behavioral phenotypes of many of the mutant mice developed and used by investigators at Washington University. These efforts often result in the establishment of different mouse models of human diseases, with particular reference to evaluating compromised behavioral functions and possible therapeutic treatments.

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