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Dr. Amanda Hernan is broadly interested in understanding the mechanisms for the relationship between significant behavioral impairment and executive dysfunction, and pediatric epilepsy. One in every 26 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy some time in their life, many of these diagnoses happen in children. Dr. Hernan and others have found that seizures during the early life period are associated with significant impairments in learning and memory, attention deficits, and anxiety-like behavior that persist to adulthood. These behavioral impairments are the result of abnormal firing patterns in specific brain regions, such as the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex.
Using electrophysiological approaches in freely moving rodents during behavioral tasks that require careful crosstalk between the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus, her goal is to understand the underlying network abnormalities that lead to behavioral deficits in childhood epilepsy and identify novel therapeutic targets for these impairments. Her lab has found treatment with neuropeptide modulators, melanocortin and putatively cannabinoid peptides, is protective; the focus now is on exploring how these neuropeptides alter dynamics in the brain to promote better outcome. Receptors for these neuropeptides are located on both neurons and glia. Dr. Hernan is interested in how astrocytes and neurons interact dynamically during development, how this interaction can be affected by seizures, and how neuropeptide modulators can alter this interaction.
Ph.D., Dartmouth College
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