The Laboratory

Our laboratory is interested in elucidating the fundamental cellular and molecular processes that underlie memory formation.

B rains have an amazing ability to learn and store information for long periods – in some cases, a lifetime. A major challenge in neuroscience is to understand how neuronal networks are sculpted by experience and how proteins/genes contribute to circuit modification. The goal of our research is to understand information storage, from the molecular level through in vivo neuronal networks and how these processes go awry in neurological disorders. My lab utilizes coordinated biochemical, cell biological, electrophysiological and imaging studies both in vitro and in vivo.

We recently discovered a novel mechanism of neuronal communication that resembles the life-cycle of retroviruses ( . The neuronal gene Arc, a master regulator of synaptic plasticity and memory, contains a Gag retroviral homology domain that has conserved secondary structure with HIV-1 that is derived from a distinct family of retrotransposons. Arc protein self-assembles into viral-like capsids that are released from cells and carry RNA/proteins to neighboring cells. Our findings open up a new area of investigation in the cell biology of cell-to-cell communication, by revealing that some retrotransposon-derived genes retain the ability to form capsids that shuttle RNAs and proteins between cells. Ongoing projects in the lab aim to dissect this new intercellular pathway that intersects diverse fields of biology that include virology, extracellular communication, evolutionary biology, gene delivery and neuroscience.


Other projects in the lab include:

The synaptic engram – how networks of cells encode, store and retrieve information

How experience sculpts the brain, using in vivo 2-photon imaging in the visual cortex

The synaptic dysfunction that underlies neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s Disease and autism spectrum disorders

Trafficking of neurotransmitter receptors at synapses

About Dr. Jason Shepherd

Dr. Jason Shepherd is currently an Assistant Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine. He joined the U in 2013 after obtaining postdoctoral training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Dr. Shepherd’s research has garnered recognition worldwide; he is the recipient of the 2010 Gruber International Research Award in Neuroscience from the Society of Neuroscience and the International Society for Neurochemistry Young Investigator Award. He is also a recipient of a K99/R00 pathway to independence award from the National Institutes of Health and is a National Academy of Sciences Kavli Fellow

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Join the Laboratory  

Are you talented, creative and highly motivated? Shepherd Laboratory is currently looking for new talent. If you are passionate about scientific research and innovation, motivated, ambitious and driven; we want you to be part of our team.

We are currently accepting application for  an open Postdoctoral Associate position.

Apply Today!

Why Utah?

Located in the heart of the western United States, Utah is home to diverse landscapes as well as world class outdoor recreation. With 43 state and 5 national parks, Utah boasts excellent access to some of the Nature’s most spectacular places… Learn more »

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