Janine L. Kwapis, PhD

My research focuses on understanding the epigenetic and molecular basis of long-term memory. I'm particularly interested in understanding how these mechanisms are altered in the aging brain and how epigenetic regulation of circadian genes within memory-relevant structures might contribute to age-related memory decline.

I grew up in Michigan and earned a BA in Psychology from Alma College in 2006. I did my graduate training in Dr. Fred Helmstetter's lab at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where I began to research the neural basis of long-term memory formation and updating. My dissertation work found that extinction of trace fear conditioning involves multiple cortical structures that are not engaged by extinction of delay fear. This is an important distinction, as exposure-based therapies used to clinically treat anxiety disorders are largely based on the delay fear model, which may not accurately reflect the circuitry being engaged by more complex, explicit fear associations.

In 2014, I joined Dr. Marcelo Wood's lab at the University of California, Irvine, where I began to investigate the epigenetic and molecular underpinnings of long-term memory. My work has shown that the repressive histone deacetylase HDAC3 represses a key circadian gene, Period1 (Per1) in the aging hippocampus, contributing to age-related memory decline. Using a combination of behavior, transgenic manipulations, sequencing techniques, and CRISPR, I will continue to explore this interface between epigenetics, age-related memory decline, and circadian gene function to understand why memory gets worse with old age.

 

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