Abhya Vij

By William & Mary

25% of $6,000 goal
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Orexin B Mediated Restoration of Attentional Performance in Animal Models of Alzheimer's

As the global population ages we have the fortune of watching as decades of research comes together to prolong the lives of our loved ones. Unfortunately, an aging brain can dampen our quality of life dramatically. Of the top 10 causes of death in America, Alzheimer's is the only one with no prevention, cure, or treatment to slow it down. Scientists have found that one hallmark sign of imminent neurocognitive disease is changes in response to homeostatic functions, like sleep cycles and dietary habits.
The basal forebrain has been implicated in attentional performance and response to homeostatic cues. Researchers have found a particular group of neurons in this region that have receptors for excitatory neuropeptides called orexins. In patients experiencing aging-related cognitive decline, the degeneration of these neurons is considered a marker for disorders like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Because there are fewer neurons with orexin receptors in old age, there is lessened firing of action potentials in the basal forebrain. This lessened firing is what causes the hallmark changes in homeostatic functions.  A novel technique for treatment of these disorders would be to administer additional orexins, causing increased rates of firing in the remaining neurons to compensate for the degenerated neurons.

All William & Mary Honors Honors Fellowships fundraising supports the Charles Center Honors Fellowships Fund. Direct support for individual undergraduate research projects is distributed by the Roy R. Charles Center for Academic Excellence. To learn more about Honors Fellowships, please visit our About page. If you have questions, please visit our FAQ page.

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