Natália Madeira, Ph.D. Student from the Cellular and Systems Neurobiology group, was distinguished with the Molecular & Cellular Cognition Society (MCCS) award for an outstanding short talk, due to her communication “Temporal Gating of Synaptic Competition in the Amygdala by Cannabinoid Receptor Activation”, presented in the MCCS Virtual Event last October.
In this event, the researcher had the opportunity to present her Ph.D. investigation, focused on understanding the rules underlying competition within the communication processes (synapses) between different neurons in the amygdala (i.e. brain structure associated with emotional memories formation). To understand those mechanisms, Natália Madeira analyzed neurons’ response to electrical stimuli and find out that: “There are defined time ranges where neurons can integrate information (…) and when this restricted time window or the number of stimuli increase, they loose this integration ability and start a competition phase”.
The present work provided important new inputs to set up a conceptual model advancing clear predictions regarding the rules of memory acquisition and maintenance but also allowed to clarify some old postulates. For instance, Natália discovered that: “Given that endocannabinoid signaling is involved in anxiety, our results support the hypothesis that by limiting cooperation and competition, the activation of cannabinoid receptors may restrict fear generalization - one of the mechanisms underlying the development of anxiety disorders”.
In the future, Natália’s research work may help to open doors towards new therapeutic strategies for memory conditions. As the researcher refers: “Understanding the rules underlying memory dynamics may offer promising knowledge for the improvement of old pharmacological treatments and identification of potential new therapeutic targets to modulate memory acquisition and maintenance”.
Apart from the scientific recognition of the work, this opportunity was very important to Natália at a more personal level: “Winning the award for the best short talk in The MCCS symposium was an honor” and she concludes by saying that: “Knowing that your work is internationally recognized and is of special interest to the scientific community is extremely gratifying and a huge motivation to proceed with the investigation”.