The title of my talk: Silent Synapses Dictate Cocaine Memories

Abstract: Cocaine-associated memories are persistent, but, upon retrieval, become temporarily destabilized and vulnerable to disruption, followed by reconsolidation. To explore the synaptic underpinnings, we studied AMPA receptor (AMPAR)-silent excitatory synapses, which are generated in the nucleus accumbens by cocaine self-administration, and subsequently mature through prolonged withdrawal by recruiting calcium-permeable AMPARs, echoing acquisition and consolidation of cocaine memories. We show that upon memory retrieval after prolonged withdrawal, the matured silent synapses become AMPAR-silent again, followed by re-maturation ~6 hr later, defining the onset and termination of a destabilization window of cocaine memories. These synaptic dynamics are controlled by Rac1: dominant-negative or constitutively-active Rac1 opens or terminates, respectively, the silent synapse-mediated destabilization window. Preventing silent synapse re-maturation once they are re-silenced within the destabilization window decreases cue-induced cocaine seeking. Thus, cocaine-generated silent synapses constitute a discrete synaptic ensemble dictating the dynamics of cocaine-associated memories, and can be targeted for memory disruption.

Bio:

1993      B.S., Tsinghua University, Beijing, P. R. China

1997      M.Sc., Tsinghua University, Beijing, P. R. China

2002     Ph.D., The Chicago Medical School, North Chicago, Illinois

2002 – 2004                   Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Psychiatry, Stanford University School of Medicine,

2004 – 2006                  Senior Scientist, Merck Research Laboratories

2006 – 2011                   Assistant Professor, Program in Neuroscience, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164

2012 – 2012                   Associate Professor, Program in Neuroscience, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164

2012 – 2014                   Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA15260

2014 – Present               Adjunct faculty, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, PA 15260

2014 – 2016                   Associate Professor, Department of Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA

2016 – Present               Professor, Department of Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh, PA 15260

 Professional Membership:

1997 – Present               Member, Society for Neuroscience

2018 – Present               Member, American College of Neuropsychopharmacology

2018 – Present               Member, Society of Biological Psychiatry

 Honors, Awards, and Titles:

2009 – Present              Alexander von Humboldt Scholar (with career award 2009 – 2012)

2015                              Jacob P. Waletzky Award for Innovative Research in Substance Abuse, Society for Neuroscience

2015                              Top 10 Reviewer Award, Biological Psychiatry

2016                              Top 10 Reviewer Award, Neuropsychopharmacology

2017                              Outstanding Reviewer Recognition, Journal of Neuroscience

2018                              MERIT Award, NIDA-NIH (R37 DA023206)

2018                              Top 10 Reviewer Award, Biological Psychiatry