Professor wins research grant

The Alzheimer's Association awarded Asst. Psychology Prof. Brian Wiltgen last month with the New Investigator Research Grant, a two-year award worth $100,000, to investigate a part of the brain essential to memory, and whether its adaptability is a factor in deterring disease. The hippocampus is a region of the brain which plays an important role in learning and memory. Wiltgen believes that hippocampal plasticity plays an important role in resisting disease.

"We know that regions like the hippocampus are specialized to encode new information," he said in an email. "Alzheimer's disease may preferentially affect neurons in this region because of design features that make them highly malleable."

Wiltgen will perform an experiment on mice predisposed to the disease to prevent or delay its development in the hippocampus.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, the disease currently afflicts about 5.4 million Americans and is the sixth leading cause of death in the nation.

Sue Friedman, president of the Central and Western Virginia Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, said the Alzhemier's Association reviews hundreds of proposals each year worldwide before awarding this grant.

Wiltgen is the only researcher in Virginia to receive the New Investigator Research Grant this year and one of three Virginian researchers to receive the grant in the last six years, Friedman said.\n"I think it's really impressive that he is the only researcher in Virginia to receive a grant this year," she said.

-compiled by Callie Herod

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