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Barbara Sarkany

DPhil Student

Biography

I completed a BSc in Biology, as an undergraduate student I explored the effect of antifungal drug combinations on biofilm formation of Candida parapsilosis. I completed an MSc in Molecular Biology at the University of Debrecen, Hungary, where I examined the role of protein dynamics in synaptic plasticity and learned basic molecular biology methods.

I wanted to gain extensive knowledge in neuroscience and understand the process of memory formation; therefore, I applied for an Erasmus+ scholarship. As an exchange student in the joint laboratory of Prof Peter Somogyi and Dr Tim Viney in the Department of Pharmacology, Oxford, I investigated the distribution of pathological tau proteins in the brains of a mouse tauopathy model, and tested how these proteins affected spatial memory processes and in vivo neuronal activity. I also carried out collaborative research at the Institue of Experimental Medicine, Hungary, where I investigated neuronal subpopulations containing tau tangles in the human brain. As an Erasmus+ student, I learned several methods such as immunohistochemistry, electrophysiological recordings and labelling in awake mice, fluorescent and confocal microscopy, and performing behaviour studies. Besides, I gained theoretical knowledge in neuroanatomy, electrophysiology, and data analysis.

I am currently carrying out a DPhil funded by Alzheimer’s Society, UK.


Research

My DPhil project investigates the role of the limbic thalamus in spatial memory and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most prevalent form of dementia. The hallmarks of AD are abnormally folded amyloid-beta and tau proteins. While the cerebral cortex remains a major focus of AD research, the role of the thalamus has received less attention. Evidence of its importance is highlighted by pathological tau inclusions in specific limbic nuclei of the thalamus. These proteins might disrupt thalamic neuronal activity, leading to cognitive deficits. My aim is to define human thalamic cell types that are most vulnerable in AD and relate these to in vivo neuronal activity of corresponding mouse cell types in order to make predictions about how these pathological changes affect cognitive processes. I am carrying out extracellular recordings and juxtacellular labelling in order to define thalamic neurons in behaving animals. To analyse pathological neurons, I am using fluorescent, confocal and electron microscopy.