Brian Wiltgen / Psychology

I have discovered that undergraduates at the University of Virginia are fascinated by learning and memory research.  They want to know how we learn, where memories are stored in the brain and why a lifetime of experience can be erased by conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.  Fortunately, science is able to provide answers to many of these questions.  It is possible to watch the brain learn in real-time, determine where information is stored and devise treatments for devastating diseases.  All of these topics are discussed in my undergraduate courses on memory, yet I find that the students want to learn more.  Specifically, they want to get outside of the classroom and see science in action.  I propose to meet this need by taking students to laboratories that are conducting contemporary research on learning and memory at the University of Virginia and the National Institute of Mental Health.

Once a month, our group will discuss a current topic in learning and memory and then visit a faculty member who is conducting research in this area.  Students will prepare for the visit by reading relevant journal articles and participating in a small group discussion led by myself.  We will visit laboratories at the University of Virginia that study child development, cognitive neuroscience, emotional learning, cellular mechanisms of memory, aging and Alzheimer’s disease.   Our last meeting will be followed by a trip to the National Institute of Mental Health where we will meet with Elisabeth Murray, Chief of the Section on the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.

Provisional budget: The monthly meetings at the University of Virginia will include lunch for the students and faculty: estimated cost = $1200.  The trip to Bethesda, Maryland will include meals, hotel rooms and a rental car: estimated cost = $1700.