Karyn Frick and students in the Pearce hall lab
Welcome to the Neuroendocrinology of Memory Lab!

Our laboratory’s overall goal is to identify the cellular, molecular, and cell-specific mechanisms in the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, and other cognitive brain regions through which sex-steroid hormones, like estrogens and progesterone, regulate memory consolidation and brain function throughout the adult female and male lifespan. By pinpointing these mechanisms, our ultimate goal is to identify key circuits, receptors, kinases, epigenetic and transcription factors, and genes that could be targets for the development of new treatments to reduce memory dysfunction in aging, Alzheimer’s disease, and various neuropsychiatric disorders.

We use mice to examine systems-level and cellular-level questions about memory formation in a mammalian system where the effects of hormones and aging are similar to those in humans. To this end, our research program utilizes a variety of approaches, including targeted intracranial drug infusions, behavioral testing, chemogenetics, fiber photometry, molecular techniques (e.g., western blotting, qPCR), and anatomical methods (e.g., dendritic spine analysis, RNAscope, immunohistochemistry) to study hormonal regulation of memory consolidation, intracellular signaling, gene transcription, local protein translation, and neuronal dendrite morphology in brain regions including the hippocampus, medial prefrontal cortex, and nucleus reuniens. This work involves female and male wild-type rodents, as well as transgenic mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease.

Ongoing collaborative projects employ RNAseq and mass spectroscopy. The lab is also actively engaged in drug discovery projects designed to develop novel therapeutics for relief of menopausal symptoms. Relevant to this line of work, Dr. Frick is also a Co-Founder and the Chief Scientific Officer of Estrigenix Therapeutics, Inc. (https://www.estrigenix.com), a start-up pharmaceutical company that aims to improve women’s health by developing safe, clinically proven treatments for the mental and physical effects of menopause.

Current projects in the lab are exploring molecular mechanisms underlying sex differences in memory and memory engrams, determining roles for protein degradation and glia in estrogenic memory enhancement, understanding how learning influences de novo brain estradiol synthesis, and using viral methods to elucidate the brain circuitry underlying estrogenic mediation of memory and determine how estradiol influences calcium activity.  We are also developing novel estrogen receptor agonist compounds and histone deacetylase inhibitors to reduce memory loss in aging and Alzheimer’s disease.

For more information, see this short video that provides some context for our research on hormones, aging, and Alzheimer’s disease. This video was produced in association with Dr. Frick’s receipt of a UW System Regent Scholar Award to test the effects of a novel estrogen receptor agonist on memory in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.

For a more extensive description of our research, please view this hour-long virtual seminar given in the Women’s Health Seminar Series hosted by the University of British Columbia.

Want to join us?  For opportunities at the undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral levels, please contact Dr. Frick at frickk@uwm.edu. Undergraduates should complete this fillable form and send it with an unofficial UWM transcript to Dr. Frick at the email address listed above.

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