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05/07/2007 07:00:00

Watson Lecture: Brain Plasticity during Learning and Memory

PASADENA, Calif.--Everything we learn changes us, and our memories reflect the brain's ability to restructure itself in response to our experience. Neurobiologist Erin Schuman wants to know how memory works, and her research at the California Institute of Technology is helping to uncover the molecular basis behind learning. She will describe recent developments on Wednesday, May 9, in the fourth and final program of the winter/spring 2007 Earnest C. Watson Lecture Series.

Information is stored at the connections between brain cells (neurons). Synapses, the points of contact and communication between neurons, exhibit plasticity: they can vary in their size, strength, and number. This plasticity contributes to our ability to learn and remember.

Schuman, professor of biology at Caltech and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, will examine how synapses are modified at the cellular, molecular, and systemic level, discussing work from both human and animal systems.

Her lecture, "Brain Plasticity during Learning and Memory," will begin at 8 p.m. in Beckman Auditorium, at 332 S. Michigan Avenue, south of Del Mar Boulevard, on the Caltech campus in Pasadena. Seating is available on a free, no-ticket-required, first-come, first-served basis.

Caltech has offered the Watson Lecture Series since 1922, when the late Caltech physicist Earnest Watson conceived it as a way to explain science to the local community.

For more information, call (626) 395-4652. Outside the greater Pasadena area, call toll-free, 1(888) 2CALTECH (1-888-222-5832).

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Contact: John Avery (626) 395-3227 jfavery@caltech.edu

Visit the Caltech Media Relations website at: http://pr.caltech.edu/media.

Written by John Avery