Conferences archive > 2013 > SPEAKERS & ABSTRACTS

J. David Sweatt

David Sweatt obtained his B.S. in Chemistry from the University of South Alabama before attending Vanderbilt University, where he was awarded a Ph.D. for studies of intracellular signaling mechanisms.  He then did a post-doctoral Fellowship at the Columbia University Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, working on memory mechanisms in the laboratory of Nobel laureate Eric Kandel.  From 1989 to 2006 he was a member of the Neuroscience faculty at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, rising through the ranks there to Professor and Director of the Neuroscience Ph.D. program. 

Dr. Sweatt's laboratory studies biochemical mechanisms of learning and memory.  In addition, his research program also investigates mechanisms of learning and memory disorders, such as mental retardation and aging-related memory dysfunction.   He is currently the Evelyn F. McKnight endowed Chairman of the Department of Neurobiology at UAB Medical School, and the Director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.  He also is a Professor the Departments of Cell Biology, Genetics, and Psychology at UAB. 

Dr. Sweatt has won numerous awards and honors, including an Ellison Medical Foundation Senior Scholar Award, and election as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  Last year he won the Ipsen Foundation International Prize in Neural Plasticity, one of the most prestigious awards in his scientific field.

From 1998 until 2002 he attended drawing and painting classes at the Glassell School of Art of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.  As an artist he explores the use of painting as a medium for expressing topics of interest in contemporary biomedical research.  In 2009 he published a textbook, Mechanisms of Memory, which is illustrated with original paintings and describes current models for the molecular and cellular basis of memory formation.

Epigenetic mechanisms in learning and memory

Epigenetic mechanisms typically involve alterations in chromatin structure, which in turn regulate gene expression.
“Epigenetics” is functionally equivalent to the mechanisms allowing stable alterations of gene expression that involve physically “marking” DNA or its associated proteins
through post-translational modification. This presentation will address the idea that conservation of epigenetic mechanisms for information storage represents a unifying model in biology, with epigenetic mechanisms being utilized for cellular memory at levels from behavioral memory to brain development and aging.

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