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James G. Heys, Ph.D.

Languages spoken: English

Academic Information

Departments: Neurobiology - Assistant Professor

Academic Office Information

Research Interests

  • Systems Neuroscience
  • Learning and Memory
  • Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia
  • Neurophysiology
  • Synaptic Plasticity

Research Statement

Episodic memories are memories of our personal experiences. These memories are characterized as an ordered series of events that occur in spatial and temporal context. This amazing ability to remember such complex memories enables animals to produce adaptive behavior learned from just single experiences. Devastating diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Schizophrenia, disrupt the ability to encode and recall episodic memories, and highlight the important need to understand the neurobiological basis of episodic memory.

The research in my lab is aimed towards uncovering the synaptic, cellular and circuit level mechanisms that underlie formation and recall of episodic memory. Furthermore, we aim to understand how these mechanisms become disrupted during neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Disease. Towards this end, we have developed cutting-edge optical techniques for application in awake-behaving rodents that enable recording and manipulation of neural physiology, from the level of individual synaptic spines up to thousands of simultaneously monitored neurons. These recording techniques are used in combination with virtual reality behavioral paradigms in order to carefully monitor and control animal behavior. In order to make progress towards understanding episodic memory, we focus on neural representations of space and time found in the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex, which are thought to be key components of episodic memories. Together, we use these techniques and approaches in order to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the principles of synaptic organization and dendritic integration that underlie neural coding of space and time in the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex?
  2. What synaptic and circuit properties change during learning that underlie encoding of novel neural representations of space and time?
  3. How are the synaptic and circuit level mechanisms of episodic memory altered in animal models of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Education History

Postdoctoral Fellowship Northwestern University
Postdoctoral Fellow
Doctoral Training Boston University
Undergraduate University of Wisconsin–Parkside