Matthew Oh, Ph.D

Matthew Oh

Research Assistant Professor, Department of Physiology

I am interested in identifying why learning becomes progressively more difficult with normal aging. With this broad goal in mind, I am studying the cellular properties of principle neurons of the hippocampus as an animal ages and after an animal has learned a task that involve the hippocampus. Thus far, we have identified that hippocampal pyramidal neurons (the principle output neurons of the hippocampus) become more excitable (that is, they are able to fire more action potentials) following successful learning. More importantly, the same population of neurons becomes less excitable with normal aging. Thus, it is our working hypothesis that the reduced excitability levels of the hippocampal pyramidal neurons with normal aging is a cause of the learning deficits observed in the aging population. We are currently using state of the art calcium imaging techniques to further characterize the changes in the hippocampal pyramidal neurons following learning and with normal aging. By systematically examining these cellular changes that occur following successful learning and with normal aging, a goal is to identify potential pharmacological targets to ameliorate and/or reverse the normal aging-related cognitive deficits. In addition, given that incidence of Alzheimer’s disease increases with age, it is another goal of our research to translate our findings and approach to identify the cellular changes that occur in this debilitating condition.

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