A pioneering study now under way at the Mount Sinai Health System’s Translational and Molecular Imaging Institute is exploring why older patients often wake up from surgery disoriented and some experience cognitive deficits several months later. The study is being led by Jeffrey Silverstein, MD, Professor and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Anesthesiology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, with $3.1 million in funding from The National Institute on Aging.
Mounting evidence suggests that age-related cognitive decline is caused not by nerve cell death, as it is in Alzheimer’s disease, but from a disruption in synapses, the structures that allow a nerve cell to transmit a signal to other nerve cells. Demonstrating these synaptic disruptions in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, and linking such disruptions to synaptic health, has been challenging for scientists—until now.
Research in Mark Baxter’s laboratory, the Glickenhaus Laboratory of Neuropsychology, focuses on the neural systems underlying memory and other higher cognitive functions, and understanding how disturbances in these systems impair cognitive function in brain disorders. Our general approach is to study the effects on behavior of specific manipulations of neural circuits in animal models, to gain insight into how similar disruptions in human disease may be responsible for cognitive impairment.