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Natasha de la Rosa-Rivera, 2019 Graduate Student Grant Writing Program Member Receives NIH Funding

Improving the Diagnosis and Treatment of Memory Disorders in Aging and Alzheimer's 

Natasha M. de la Rosa-Rivera, a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in the Neuroscience and Behavior Program, and 2019 CRF Graduate Student Grant Writers Program member was recently named as a recipient of an NIH dissertation award (R36) to complete and further her research. Receiving this award will allow Natasha to test her overarching hypothesis that brain regions contribute to a cognitive task – be it perceptual or mnemonic – according to the representations they contain. 

Her first project will look at the similarities in neural mechanisms underlying two cognitive processes (visual perception and recognition memory) using the same type of visual stimuli. The second project will test whether older adults exhibit greater deficits in recognition memory for complex associative stimuli than for simple visual stimuli. It is known that the medial temporal lobe (MTL), a region responsible for the memory of complex stimuli, deteriorates with age. If it is assumed that all memory processes are driven exclusively by MTL systems, then the memory of older adults should be negatively affected by aging. Natasha’s hypothesis asks if MTL is responsible for only the memory of complex stimuli then memory for simple visual stimuli should be relatively unaffected since this mechanism is found outside of MTL. Thus, according to her theory, memory for simple visual stimuli should be preserved if the areas outside of the MTL are unaffected. The hope is that both projects may lay the groundwork for improved diagnosis and treatment of memory disorders in aging and Alzheimer's, potentially alleviating patient distress and familial burdens.

Natasha says “The Graduate Student Writers Program was essential to my success in writing the grant and submitting it. The program was indispensable to my success by significantly improving my writing, receiving valuable editing feedback from peers both inside and outside of my research field and from, the program director,  Dr. Rebecca Spencer. Dr. Spencer kept me organized and focused throughout the process. She is an amazing resource that I had the privilege to learn from and the luck to have her unwavering support in my academic career, during and after the writers' program.”

Natasha, a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in the Neuroscience and Behavior Program, is conducting research in the lab directed by Dr. Rosie Cowell, associate professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences.