Erica DeGrange Smith

My research interest is the molecular mechanisms of how healthy neurons mediate learning and behavior, and the how the immune system modifies normal neural functions. My thesis work in the laboratory of Carl Cotman, UCI, described that BDNF activation of the mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) precisely modulates autophagic degradation to promote hippocampal neuron survival in vitro, and that IL-1β inhibited this pathway. I have research experience in the fields of neurobiology of aging and the interactions of the immune and the nervous systems.

In the Agalliu lab, I will characterize the biochemical, synaptic, and behavioral changes which occur in mice after repeated infection with Streptococcus pyogenes. This bacterial pathogen is currently known for causing “strep throat” and historically known for causing rheumatic fever in children. A subset of children develop rapid-onset neuropsychiatric symptoms associated with repeated strep infections. I am researching this syndrome using a mouse model from our collaborator, Dr Patrick Cleary at the University of Minnesota.