Aging-induced memory deficiencies are caused by dysfunctions of various brain regions, including the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex. Currently not much is known about the anatomical and biophysical properties or the underlying molecular mechanisms that enable these regions to contribute to memory formation or the effects of aging on neural learning and storage capacity. In this project, we propose to combine electrophysiological and modeling approaches to address issues pertaining to aging induced changes in cellular properties and how these influence the information processing capacity of hippocampal and neocortical cells. Towards this target, we will first perform electrophysiological experiments to characterize the intrinsic properties of young and aged pyramidal neurons and then use the accumulated as well as existing data to build realistic compartmental models of these cells. Models will incorporate both anatomical and biophysical information and will be used in simulation experiments to study the effects of aging on the excitability and integrative properties of hippocampal and neocortical neurons. We are especially interested in (a) investigating the ability of aged neurons to support nonlinear dendritic integration and process incoming signals like multi-layer neural networks and (b) identifying key mechanisms that influence dendritic integration properties as they may serve as a basis for new medical interventions that can alleviate memory loss in the elderly.
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