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How do hormones improve learning and memory?

School of Biological Sciences

About the Project

Deficiencies of thyroid hormone, in particular subclinical hypothyroidism is common throughout the globe. Adult-onset hypothyroidism affects around 8-10% of the population and has been associated with reproductive disorders, anxiety, depression and impairment of memory. Currently, the intervention is to give back thyroid hormone in the form of levothyroxine but this has only been partially successful. Thyroid hormone is a hormone that signals via different thyroid hormone receptors, the thyroid hormone receptor (TR)alpha and TRbeta. Both receptors are present in areas of the brain such as the hippocampus and are thought to be important for the ability of the brain to make new neurons – a process called adult hippocampal neurogenesis. However, the molecular mechanisms by which thyroid hormones promote neurogenesis remain underexplored. In our model, hypothyroid mice show deficits in two hippocampally-dependent spatial tasks that are rescued by the administration of TH or uniquely by, the TRbeta-selective agonist, GC-1. The student will determine the contribution of each TR isoforms to spatial memory and to adult hippocampal neurogenesis by constructing unique mouse models where either TRalpha1 or TRbeta1 is conditionally deleted in the hippocampus. The student will also test if a growth factor – i.e. brain derived growth factor is important for thyroid hormones to restore neurogenesis and spatial memory in the hypothyroid mouse.
This project is ideal for students who are interested in basic molecular neuroscience that is clinically applicable. This is also suitable for students who are interested in understanding mechanisms of learning and memory or for students who are interested in animal behaviour. Students will use genetic, molecular and behavioural techniques in their study. Understanding how TRs signal in the brain to affect memory and mood is crucial in the design of new therapeutics, particularly the use of GC-1, a novel thyromimetic. The student will be part of a vibrant endocrine group at the University of Reading, with an opportunity to get training in teaching pedagogy. In addition, the student will also have an opportunity to network with overseas collaborators.

Funding Notes

Applications will be considered from any candidate who holds (or expects to obtain) at least a 2:1 or 1st Class Honours Degree in a Biology related subject. Molecular Biological or Behavioural experience a plus, but not necessary. If EU/UK student, please contact Dr. Vasudevan in sufficient time to explore funding options. Informal enquiries to Dr. Vasudevan at .


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