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Penn scientist receives L'Oréal USA fellowship for women in science
Date:6/4/2008

PHILADELPHIA- Sara Aton, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, was awarded a grant from the L'Oral USA For Women in Science Program. Laurent Attal, President and CEO, L'Oral USA, and Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone, President, National Academy of Sciences, honored Dr. Aton, along with the other five 2008 recipients at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. This prestigious fellowship provides support to postdoctoral women scientists who are undertaking cutting-edge research with practical applications.

"I was surprised and delighted when I found out that I had been selected for the L'Oreal award," said Dr. Aton. "The work of this year's fellows has real potential to change our world. So to say I am honored to have been placed among them is an understatement."

The L'Oral USA Fellowship program started in 2003 and each year identifies and rewards five female, postdoctoral researchers with grants. Starting in 2007, the grants doubled in value from $20,000 to $40,000.

Dr. Aton will use this grant to study a key biological component underlying learning and memory called synaptic plasticity. She studies the role of connections between nerve cells in consolidating ocular dominance plasticity during sleep by recording large groups of individual neurons in freely sleeping animals. Ocular dominance plasticity is a term that describes the remodeling of nerve synapses that occurs in the visual cortex of the brain in response to changes in visual input from both eyes.

"Because sleep seems to also be involved in learning and memory consolidation, we use ocular dominance plasticity as a system to probe the general mechanisms by which sleep may facilitate learning and memory," she explains.

This will be the first study attempting such large-scale recording of neurons within a synaptically-integrated network during plastic remodeling. Dr. Aton add
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Contact: Karen Kreeger
Karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5658
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert  

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