About This Project
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a medical condition that afflicts nearly 70 million American adults. This project will investigate the effect of hypertension and inflammation on memory by testing with the Context Discrimination Task. By gaining insight into how the brain, and specifically the hippocampus, is affected by high blood pressure and inflammation, future studies may develop drugs and treatments to mitigate neurological disorders.
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What is the context of this research?
Hypertension (high blood pressure) affects 1 in 3 Americans and nearly 68 million Americans will experience hypertension in their lifetime. Although there may not be immediate adverse effects, continuous hypertension can lead to damage in blood vessels and the heart. The condition is also associated with a higher risk for conditions such as kidney disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Hypertension costs the nation $46 billion each year due to the cost of health care services, medications, and missed days of work. Individuals are more likely to develop hypertension as they age. Inflammation, especially in the brain, has been linked to hypertension. Mild cognitive impairment can result from prolonged uncontrolled hypertension in aging.
What is the significance of this project?
Worldwide, 1 in 3 adults has hypertension, a condition that can lead to heart attack, stroke, and dementia. Given the high incidence of hypertension on a global scale, it is imperative that we better understand the full implications of this condition on the human brain. Spontaneously hypertensive rats and normotensive Wistar rats will be used as models for the human population. Inflammation and hypertension will be used jointly to assess subsequent cognitive impairment. We are specifically looking at supporting cells in the brain, microglia and astrocytes, in the hippocampus, which are associated with inflammation. Our goal is to assess how inflammation and hypertension cause neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias.
What are the goals of the project?
Our short-term goal is to raise $4900 so that we can obtain the spontaneously hypertensive rats and normotensive Wistar rats for our experimental subjects. Our long-term goal is to use these rats as models to understand the responses of supporting cells in the the hippocampal region of the brain. The hippocampus is a brain region specifically associated spatial learning and memory. The ultimate aim is to ameliorate these hippocampal cellular responses to inflammation and hypertension that lead to dementias and other forms of cognitive impairment.
To conduct this study, we first need the experimental model. Spontaneously Hypertensive rats and normal Wistar rats are an expensive model because they have been developed over many generations. Each rat costs between $80-90 and we will purchase enough adult males and females from each strain to form a breeding colony for future subjects ($1725 and $1575, respectively). There are additional expenses in for proper housing and sustenance for these animals that would cost approximately $1600.
Meet the Team
The Williamson lab acknowledges that the human body is complex and relies on the communication between body systems and is specifically focused on investigating the relationship between the brain, behavior, and the immune system. Rats are experimental models, and we use several behavioral tasks to assess the link between the brain, behavior, and immunity. We focus on microglia as the measure of immune system function within the brain.
I am an assistant professor in the Psychology Department at Williams College and my lab specializes in studying the ways that the brain and immune system interact and how those interactions can change learning and memory. The brain is incredible and I'm inspired every day to ask more and more questions about it!
I'm a rising sophomore who is interested in gaining lab experience and learning more about neuroscience in general.
I am a rising junior majoring in Biology and English. I'm a research assistant in the Williamson lab to gain more experience with neuroscience research.
I am a rising senior majoring in Biology and concentrating in Neuroscience. I'm doing an honors thesis project in the Williamson lab on the effects of inflammation and hypertension on cognition.
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