UW News

April 17, 2008

Alzheimer’s disease expert to present Hille Lecture April 22

Dr. Roberto Malinow, the Shiley-Marcos Endowed Chair in Alzheimer’s Disease, University of California, San Diego, will present the Einar Hille Memorial Lecture in Neurosciences at 2 p.m. Tuesday, April 22, in T-733 Health Sciences Center. The lecture, titled Synaptic Receptor Trafficking in Health and Disease, is sponsored by the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. The lecture is open to everyone.

Over the last twenty years, Malinow’s laboratory has been studying the biological basis of learning and memory in normal and disease conditions. He has focused on the mechanisms by which neurons in the central nervous system communicate and change their connectivity as a response to sensory experience. This phenomenon, known as synaptic plasticity, is widely believed to underlie the brain’s ability to store and process information and, therefore, it is thought to be the cellular correlate of learning and memory. It is also eagerly anticipated that the elucidation of the basic mechanisms mediating synaptic plasticity during development and late in adult life will help in understanding pathological disruptions of behavior and cognition.

The majority of fast excitatory neurotransmission in the mammalian brain is mediated by AMPA- and NMDA-type glutamate receptors. Malinow demonstrated the existence of a large fraction of glutamatergic synapses containing only NMDA-type receptors, which render them silent when the postsynaptic cell is at resting membrane potential, coining the term “silent synapses.”  Such pure NMDA-receptor synapses, as well as AMPA-receptor containing synapses, add AMPA receptors during experience-dependent synaptic plasticity and development, increasing synaptic strength. This process is widely accepted as the molecular basis of memory storage. Using a vast array of techniques, Malinow’s laboratory has also pioneered studies on the molecular mechanisms by which AMPA receptors and NMDA receptors are delivered to or removed from synapses.

Malinow received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Reed College, an medical degree from New York University School of Medicine, and a doctoral degree from the University of California at Berkeley. He has received the Science Magazine “Breakthrough of the Year” award and the MetLife Foundation Award for Medical Research. He has been special lecturer at the annual Society for Neuroscience Meeting and keynote speaker at several conferences. He is the Alle Davis and Maxine Harrison Endowed Chair of Neurosciences at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and recently, the Shiley-Marcos Endowed Chair in Alzheimer’s Disease at the University of California in San Diego.

The Einar Hille Memorial Lecture in Neurosciences was established by Kirsti Hille in honor of her late husband. Dr. Hille was a professor of mathematics at Yale University and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Bertil Hille, son of Einar and Kirsti Hille, is the Wayne E. Crill Endowed Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at the UW.