Jennifer Bizon, Ph.D.
Department of Neuroscience (Joint Appointment in Department of Psychiatry)
University of Florida
1149 Newell Drive
PO Box 100244
Gainesville, FL 32611-0244
Office Phone: (352) 294-5149
Lab Phone: (352) 294-5028
Key Words: Aging; Memory; Executive Function; Plasticity
Expectations of longevity have increased two-fold in the last century resulting in unparalleled numbers of individuals who will live to experience age-associated cognitive impairments. Indeed, in addition to the 13% of individuals over age 65 who will face dementia associated with Alzheimer’s disease, the vast majority of seniors will show decline in cognitive processes such as attention, learning, memory and executive functions. The focus of my laboratory is to better understand how brain structure and neurochemistry changes with age and, in particular, to identify which age-related neural changes contribute to the decline of cognitive functions. We are particularly interested in identifying the mechanisms whereby the brain is able to effectively adapt for loss of function, with the goal of targeting these compensatory mechanisms in order to optimize cognitive functioning across the full lifespan.
Research Focus & Aims:
My primary research program is focused on understanding the neural mechanisms of learning, memory and executive functioning and how these processes are altered in the normal aging process. Our approach integrates cellular, molecular and pharmacological methodologies with rodent behavioral assays that assess memory, executive functions, and decision making. We are currently investigating whether alterations in corticolimbic GABAergic circuitry contribute to age-related executive dysfunction and are exploring whether this circuitry can be manipulated to improve cognitive trajectories across the lifespan. We are also interested in how distinct neurochemical systems (GABA, dopamine, and acetylcholine) contribute to age-related alterations in decision making processes. Finally, ongoing work in our laboratory is focused on understanding the mechanisms whereby early life exposure to environmental toxins and/or drugs of abuse (e.g., psychostimulants) contributes to the precipitous decline of synaptic plasticity and cognitive functioning across the lifespan.