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Leonard J. Cleary, Ph.D.

Professor, Research
Course Director, Gross Anatomy
Director, Human Structure Facility

Telephone: 713.500.5631
E-mail Dr Cleary

Neurobiology and Anatomy > Department Faculty > Leonard Cleary, Ph.D.

Morphological Correlates Of Learning And Memory

Len Cleary, Ph.D.In this Laboratory, our research is concerned with the identification of neural mechanisms underlying learning and memory; the particular focus is on their morphological correlates. Most projects require intracellular recording from identified neurons, intracellular injection of dyes, and several morphological techniques including immunofluorescence and conventional light and electron microscopy.

Morphological Correlates Of Learning And Memory.
Morphological Correlates Of Learning And Memory.

Sensory and motor neurons underlying the tail-withdrawal reflex in the marine mollusc Aplysia californica have been identified, and changes in their properties have been correlated with changes in the strength of the reflex. One morphological correlate, for example, is the change in neuronal shape which results from learning. We have recently shown that injection of cAMP into individual neurons is sufficient to produce morphological changes that persist for at least 24 hours, and that this modification can be blocked by inhibitors of protein synthesis. Currently, we are examining the time course over which the morphological changes occur.

Morphological techniques are also valuable for the identification of additional elements of the neural circuit which may help to regulate the tail-withdrawal reflex. In particular, there is strong evidence that serotonin plays a critical role in sensitization. Using electron microscopic immunocytochemistry, we have shown that serotonergic varicosities make direct contact with sensory neurons. Other neurotransmitters which play a role in learning include the modulatory peptides FMRFamide, buccalin, and SCPB, which are also produced by neurons that project to the cluster of tail sensory neurons. We are currently examining the ultrastructural relationship of these neural systems.

Selected Reading

Nazif, F.A., Byrne, JH, and Cleary, LJ. (1991) Intracellular injection of cAMP produces a long- term (24 hr) increase in the number of varicosities in pleural sensory neurons of Aplysia. Brain Res., 539:324-327.

Cleary, LJ, Byrne, JH. (1993) Identification and characterization of a multifunction neuron contributing to defensive arousal in Aplysia. J. Neurophysiol., 70:1767-1776.

O’Leary, FA, Byrne, JH, Cleary, LJ. (1995) Long-term structural remodeling in Aplysia sensory neurons requires de novo protein synthesis during a critical time period. J. Neurosci., 15:3519-3525.

Cleary, LJ, Byrne, JH, Frost, WN. (1995) Role of interneurons in defensive withdrawal reflexes in Aplysia, Learning and Memory, 2:133-151.

Zhang, F, Endo, S, Cleary, LJ, Eskin, A, Byrne, JH. (1997) Role of transforming growth factor-ß in long-term synaptic facilitation in Aplysia. Science, 275:1318-1320.

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