Neurobiologist Ted Abel '85 Says Genes Affect People's Memories

Neurobiologist Ted Abel '85 said in an interview with NPR's Science Friday that a person's genes can affect the formation of long-term memories.

"When we want to remember something, we stimulate our genes in our brain to create proteins to store the memory," says Abel, who was named editor-in-chief of Neurobiology of Learning and Memory earlier this year. A study he co-authored and published recently in the Journal of Clinical Investigation links the epigenetic modification of chromatin to long-term memory formation in the mouse brain. Listen to the full discussion.

After receiving a B.A. in chemistry from Swarthmore, Abel attended the University of Cambridge (Christ's College) as a Marshall Scholar, receiving an M. Phil. in biochemistry and working with R. Tim Hunt on the cloning of cyclin. He then moved to Harvard University to work with Tom Maniatis on transcriptional regulation during Drosophila development as a National Science Foundation graduate fellow. After receiving his Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology in 1993 from Harvard, Abel moved to the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University for his postdoctoral work, during which he received a fellowship from the Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Cancer Research Fund and a young investigator award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression.

Abel is currently the Brush Family Professor of Biology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he serves as the director of the Biological Basis of Behavior Program. His lab focuses on the transcriptional and epigenetic regulation in memory storage, sleep/wake regulation, and mouse models of psychiatric disease.