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NRI to unravel brain's mysteries

india Updated: Jul 24, 2006 11:02 IST

An Indian neuroscientist at the Health Science Center of Texas University has won a $200,000 grant to study molecular changes in the brain that affect our ability to learn and remember as we age.

Ravi Ranjan is one of the three Texas scientists to receive the New Scholar Award in Aging this year from the Ellison Medical Foundation.

"The Ellison New Scholar Award is very important in helping me to continue and accelerate this research," says Dr Ranjan.

The award is for four years and is designed to provide significant support to young investigators selected for their potential to become leaders in the field of aging.

Dr Ranjan, who studies aging in a fruit fly species called Drosophila melanogaster studies molecular mechanisms that change "synaptic plasticity" during aging.

Synapses are points throughout the brain where nervous impulses are sent from one neuron to another.

Like opposite rims of a canyon, a synapse consists of pre- and post-synaptic endings with a space between. Information is transmitted across these gulfs.
 
"As we grow, new synapses form in the brain, and the synaptic endings are very flexible. This quality enables children to learn more readily.

As we get older, learning at the same level and speed is not possible because the structure and function of our synapses change. They become more rigid as we age," explains Dr Ranjan.

The Ellison Medical Foundation supports basic biomedical research on aging relevant to understanding aging processes and age-related diseases and disabilities.

The Foundation particularly wishes to stimulate new, creative research that might not be funded by traditional sources or that is often under-funded in the US.

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