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Snowbird Symposium Fall 2017

"The Role of Epigenetics in Neuroscience"

October 27, 2017
Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort


POSTER ABSTRACT SUBMISSION: SUBMIT ABSTRACT HERE (If you are attending the Symposium, you must also register for the meeting)

9:00AM-12:00PM SCIENTIFIC SESSION I (Cliff Lodge, Ballrooms 1&2)
12:00-1:45PM Lunch (Cliff Lodge, Magpie Room)
1:45-5:00PM SCIENTIFIC SESSION II (Cliff Lodge, Ballrooms 1&2)
5:00-6:30PM Poster session and mixer (Cliff Lodge, Ballroom Mezzanine); sponsored by the SfN Intermountain Chapter; Hard Deadline: October 13, 2017, 5:00PM. ABSTRACT submittal 
6:30-8:00PM Dinner, Cliff Lodge, Golden Cliff/Eagles Nest
8:00-9:00PM Keynote Speaker
9:30-11:00PM Mixer, Cliff Lodge, Golden Cliff/Eagles Nest



KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Elizabeth Heller, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology and The Penn Epigenetics Institute, The University of Pennsylvania  

Elizabeth Heller
Title: "Locus specific epigenetic editing for the study of reward pathology"

Research Summary: The Heller Lab studies the mechanisms by which remodeling of the epigenome leads to aberrant neuronal gene function and behavior.  To approach this problem, we directly manipulate histone and DNA modifications at specific genes in vivo, using viral delivery of epigenetic editing tools.  We focus on uncovering the mechanisms by which chromatin modifications interact with the transcriptional machinery following exposure to drugs of abuse and stress. Because the behavioral disease traits of addiction and depression persist long after cessation of the harmful experience, stable epigenetic remodeling is an attractive mechanism for such long-lasting effects and presents an intriguing target for therapeutic intervention.


Speaker: Farah Lubin, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Neurobiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Farah Lubin

Title: "The epigenetic basis of memory formation"

Research Summary: I am focused on studying the epigenetic basis for transcriptional regulation of genes in neurons that integrate and encode information in the brain. Epigenetics is the study of both heritable and non-heritable regulation of gene expression that occurs without any alteration in the DNA sequence; it has been newly implicated as a mediator of experience- and environment-induced persisting behavioral change. Myself and others have observed that neurons have “hijacked” epigenetic processes such as DNA methylation and posttranslational histone modifications to coordinate gene transcription changes in the hippocampus, thus revealing an unexpected role for chromatin structure regulation in mature, non-dividing neurons during memory formation. I use interdisciplinary methods ranging from systems to molecular neuroscience and cutting edge tools such as CRISPR/dCas9 gene editing, Electrophoretic Mobility Shift assays, Laser-capture microdissections, neurophysiology, Genomic analyses, high-throughput sequencing, and bioinformatic tools to understand how neuronal activity alters the epigenome to direct gene expression patterns. My work has provided insights into epigenetic mechanisms that participate in the regulation of gene expression during memory encoding, allocation, storage and recall in hopes of unraveling the causes of cognitive deficits and to develop treatment options. Results from these studies will provide fundamental information concerning epigenetics in mature neurons with clear relevance in learning and memory deficits.

 Speaker: Marcelo Wood, PhD, Francisco J. Ayala Chair, Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy, University of California at Irvine

Marcelo Wood

Title: "Circadian gene regulation by histone deacetylation contributes to age-related impairments in memory and synaptic plasticity"

Research Summary: Age-related cognitive decline is a major public health issue, as lifespans increase and the proportion of aging individuals continues to grow. Chromatin modification has emerged as a possible mechanism that is dysregulated in the aging brain, but how specific chromatin modification mechanisms contribute to age-related cognitive decline is unclear. Here, we show that focal genetic deletion or activity-specific disruption of the histone deacetylase HDAC3 in the dorsal hippocampus is sufficient to ameliorate age-related impairments in both long-term memory and synaptic plasticity. Further, gene expression analyses revealed a subset of genes, including the circadian gene Per1, that is restricted in the aging brain by HDAC3. Finally, we show that PER1 plays a key role in memory formation in addition to its known role in regulating circadian rhythm. Together, these results reveal a novel mechanism through which dysregulated HDAC3 might disrupt both memory and circadian rhythmicity in the aging brain.

Speaker: Elisabeth Conradt, PhD, Assistant Professor, Psychology, University of Utah

Elisabeth Conradt

Title: "Epigenetic processes implicated in prenatal origins of health"

Research Summary: Epigenetic methods are being applied rapidly within the fields of psychology and psychiatry with a particular focus on prenatal exposure to maternal mood symptoms. Despite recent advancements in the field of behavioral epigenetics, there are a number of methodological shortcomings that must be addressed to identify mechanisms by which prenatal exposure to maternal mood may impact child neurobehavioral development. In this talk I will describe the development of a functional epigenetic pathway that targets epigenetic processes implicated in the development of the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis. I argue that a pathway approach could yield more mechanistic insights regarding how prenatal exposure influences child social and emotional functioning. The goal of this research is to uncover biologically plausible pathways that may improve the understanding of how early life experiences become epigenetically embedded to affect newborn neurodevelopment.

Speaker: Hilary Coon, PhD, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Utah

 Hilary Coon

Title: "Utah Studies of Genetic Risk for Suicide"

Research Summary: Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US. While environment has undeniable impact, evidence suggests that genetic factors play a major role in completed suicide. We have linked records from >4,000 suicide cases with DNA to the Utah Population Database, identifying >100 extended families (7-9 generations) with significant familial risk of completed suicide. This significant familial aggregation across distant relatives minimizes risk effects of shared environment, provides more genetically homogeneous risk groups, and magnifies the detectable effect of specific genetic risk variants through familial repetition. We have now analyzed 43 of our largest high-risk families, and have identified genome-wide significant shared regions of the genome likely to harbor risk variants.  The regions provide an extensive new source of candidate genes. Results from follow-up sequence data will be presented, in addition to updates from other complementary studies of this large genomic/ phenotypic data resource.

Speaker: Chris Gregg, PhD, Assistant Professor, Neurobiology & Anatomy, University of Utah

Chris Gregg

Title: "How epigenetics shapes the expression of maternal and paternal alleles in the brain"

Research Summary: Our lab investigates how disorders can arise through epigenetic mechanisms. Here, I will discuss new epigenetic effects at the allele and cellular levels in the brain and implications for understanding brain genetics, brain development and risks for mental illness.

 Graduate student speakers: 

 Jaycie Loewen: NP graduate student (Wilcox lab): "Mechanisms of glutamate homeostasis in a model of temporal lobe epilepsy"

Patrick Parker: NP graduate student (Brennan lab): "Altered glutamate signaling in mouse model of familial hemiplegic migraine"

Donn Van Deren, Jr.: NP graduate student (Capecchi lab): "Establishing the ontogeny of Hoxb8-lineage microglia"

Yueqi Wang: NP graduate student (Shcheglovitov lab): "Synaptic connectivity of SHANK3-deficient human neurons"

Chandni Sheth: Postdoctoral Fellow (Renshaw lab): “Living at Altitude: Brain and Behavioral Effects of Hypobaric Hypoxia in an Animal model”


Last Updated: 9/19/17