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Making it Happen

BEYOND NORTH AVE

GARY MEEK

Singer and members of her lab train mice to navigate a virtual-reality maze projected on a curved screen. They record brain activity as the mice complete the task.

In her lab, she’s taken on students with backgrounds in both areas, and Emory University’s joint stake in the Coulter Department means Singer has access to its Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. She also appreciates the supportive atmosphere among Tech faculty members.

might misfire long before an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

“I feel like people are rooting for me as a young faculty member, regardless of whether or not it helps them, and that’s nice,” she said.

“We think about our lives, ourselves, in terms of stories,” she said. “I am who I am because of the things I’ve done and the experiences I’ve had. If you lose that, it’s like you lose yourself.”

Singer was always interested in psychology. In graduate school, she got involved with the UCSF Memory and Aging Center, where patients were tested for memory problems and thinking issues. What really interested her, though, was how to bridge that kind of work with what she was already doing. Her own research centered on neurons and the ways they work together to create new memories, and she wanted to link that research with the wider world of human brain function. Later, during her postdoctoral years, she saw she could explore her interests in “understanding Alzheimer’s disease at what we call the circuit or system level.” That is to say, she wanted to learn more about how a brain’s neurons

Singer knows the stakes are high. Though her current work is concentrated on mice in the lab, she’s always conscious of its implications on human life.

Still, Singer thinks some of Alzheimer’s most devastating realities might also signal hope for new treatments. She noted that patients don’t experience “a steady decline in cognitive function, so it’s not like every day you get a little worse. Instead, patients can shift between seeming pretty normal and seeming pretty lost and disoriented, even in the same day.” “That kind of spontaneous shift from highly functional to dysfunctional — that’s not cell death,” she explained. “Those are reversible things in the brain. If we can figure out what’s going on there, that’s a potential route to a therapy.” ▪ Georgia Tech Engineers, Spring 2017

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Georgia Tech Engineers Spring 2017  

Georgia Tech Engineers strengthens the bonds between CoE’s students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends by sharing the stories that link t...

Georgia Tech Engineers Spring 2017  

Georgia Tech Engineers strengthens the bonds between CoE’s students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends by sharing the stories that link t...

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