Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Vivian Li L&S Sciences

Investigating the Role of TREK1 Ion Channels in Social Memory

The firing properties of a neuron are not only influenced by the electrical and chemical signals it receives, but also by the physical properties of its environment. Their ability to detect stimuli such as pH, temperature, and mechanical pressure allows a neuron to change its excitability in response. Two-pore domain potassium (K2P) ion channels are of particular importance because they are crucial in hyperpolarizing and modulating the resting membrane potential. Deviations from normal resting membrane potentials lead to unexpected consequences, including mental illness.The purpose of this research project is to investigate the effects of the K2P ion channel TREK1, a mechanosensitive potassium channel in the hippocampus, and its influence on the social memory of mice. Over the summer, I will address these issues with behavioral assays testing the social memory of TREK1 knockout (KO) and wild-type (wt) mice and by measuring the electrophysiological properties of the hippocampus in these two genotypes, potentially allowing us to understand the significance of TREK1 in mice and later, humans.

Message To Sponsor

Coming into the SURF program this summer, I didn't really know what to expect because I had never worked in a lab full time before while focusing on my own research question. This summer was amazing because I spent a lot of time not only diving deeper into my hypotheses and experiments, but also seeing how productive it was to work in a community where everyone is so knowledgeable and passionate about their research and supportive of each other. Through this fellowship, I felt I was able to grow as a more confident, independent thinker and develop a deeper understanding of how memory works in the brain. I also learned how much I enjoy research and working in the research community, as well as how there is so much more to discover. This summer has taught me that I would like to incorporate research into my career in the future, and I greatly thank the Pergo Foundation for giving me this unforgettable opportunity.
Profile image of Vivian Li
Major: Molecular and Cellular Biology (Neurobiology)
Mentor: Toby Turney
Sponsor: Pergo Fund
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