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[April 14, 2008]


Dr. Todd Sacktor Recognized for Finding Molecule that Sustains Memory


SUNY Downstate Medical Center’s Todd Sacktor, MD, was among twenty faculty members from SUNY campuses around the state honored for their groundbreaking research at a recent awards dinner in Albany.

The SUNY Research Foundation, which hosts the annual dinner, calls the event “New York State’s chance to recognize and thank faculty whose research in fields like medicine, engineering, science, computers, mathematics, social work, and education increases human knowledge, and provides an economic engine for the state.”

Dr. Sacktor was honored in the category of Outstanding Research/Scholar. This category recognizes faculty members for outstanding contributions they have made in their respective fields, including inventions and significant recognition they have received from their peers. Dr. Sacktor is a professor of physiology and pharmacology and of neurology at SUNY Downstate.      

For nearly three decades, Dr. Sacktor has been studying the mechanism of learning and memory. He and his research team reported in Science magazine that an enzyme molecule called “protein kinase M zeta” preserves memories through long-term strengthening of synaptic connections between neurons. By inhibiting the enzyme, scientists were able to erase a memory that had been stored for one day, or even one month. After the erasure, the animal models could relearn and then remember normally, indicating that the inhibitor did not damage the brain or permanently disrupt memory function.

These findings may be useful for the treatment of disorders characterized by the pathological over-strengthening of synaptic connections, such as neuropathic pain, phantom limb syndrome, and post-traumatic stress, and possibly even to lead to ability to selectively switch off memories of painful events.  Conversely, the identification of the core molecular mechanism for memory storage may focus effort on the development of specific therapeutic agents that enhance memory persistence and prevent memory loss. Science magazine deemed Dr. Sacktor’s discovery one of the “10 Science Breakthroughs of 2006.”

The Research Foundation supports the advancement of education, research and discovery at the State University of New York. In 2007, the Research Foundation administered $781.8 million in research money for 7,400 projects funded by 1,600 sponsors. The SUNY system currently serves more than 427,000 students.

SUNY Downstate Medical Center is the only academic medical center in Brooklyn, Queens, or Staten Island, and comprises a College of Medicine, Colleges of Nursing and Health Related Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a Public Health Degree Program, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and a growing Advanced Biotechnology Park and Biotechnology Incubator.