E-mail: Jason.Shepherd@neuro.utah.edu | Phone: 801-585-6214

All posts by author

Shepherd Lab Work featured in National Geographic!

We excited to have our lab featured in National Geographic this month in an article titled “How viruses shape our world”.

How viruses shape our world
January 14, 2021 / / - / Neuroscience

Welcome Junjie Xu, new graduate student in the Shepherd Lab!

Welcome to @JunjieXu15 from Hefei city, China. He has a BS in Biological Sciences from Sichuan University and is interested in investigating repurposed retrotransposon genes in brain function.

June 1, 2020 / / - / Neuroscience

Jason Shepherd presents “Virus-like biogenesis of neuronal extracellular vesicles”

Watch a recent talk given by Jason Shepherd for the weekly Extracellular Vesicle Club hosted by John Hopkin’s University: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6Xf5eLTvqw

Extracellular Vesicle Club 
@JohnsHopkins: now virtual and open to all! 
Jason Shepherd, University of Utah School of Medicine, presents 
Virus-like biogenesis of neuronal extracellular vesicles 
Please see: https://bit.lv/2XCkUcz https://bit.lv/3bWFs40 
Not on the login email list? Sign up at: 
Twitter @JasonSynaptic @KennethWWitwer @LabWitwer @HopkinsMedNews #ExtracellularVesicles #EVJoumalClub
May 27, 2020 / / - / Neuroscience

Shepherd Lab work mentioned by Neil Shubin on NPR’s Science Friday!

We’re honored to be mentioned on this popular NPR Radio show. Thanks for the shout out!!

The Twists And Turns Of The Evolution Of Life On Earth

May 1, 2020 / / - / Neuroscience

Welcome, Mitali Tyagi, new graduate student in the Shepherd Lab!

We welcome @MitaliTyagi2 from Delhi, India. She has a BS in Zoology from University of Delhi and MS in Neuroscience from Jiwaji University, India. She’s interested in the role of intercellular signaling in neurodegenerative diseases.

May 1, 2020 / / - / Neuroscience

Podcast: ARC, A Gene to Remember: Dr Jason Shepherd by RadioBio

Have you ever been curious about how our brains “learn” and why only somethings seem to “stick” and others seem to fade away as time goes on? I know I have. How are memories stored? This podcast explores the brain’s amazing ability to learn and store information over a lifetime, as well as a recently discovered mechanism of neuronal communication that resembles the life-cycle of retroviruses.

April 16, 2020 / / - / Neuroscience

Madeleine Kyrke-Smith receives NARSAD Grant with distinction

The Shepherd lab is pleased to announce that our senior Post-Doctoral Fellow, Madeleine Kyrke-Smith has received a Brain and Behavior Research Foundation NARSAD Grant! This award provides two years of funding for a young investigator to extend fellowship training. Madeleine was also selected for the Research Partner Program and named the Jeanne Marie Lee Investigator. Madeleine will use this grant to look at the contribution of Arc to developmental synaptic plasticity in the visual cortex, which is hypothesised to contribute visual symptoms of Schizophrenia.

Award: https://www.bbrfoundation.org/grants-prizes/bbrf-young-investigator-grants

October 23, 2019 / / - / Neuroscience

TedMed Talk by Jason Shepherd: How an ancient virus spread the ability to remember

Do you remember your oldest memory? Jason Shepherd clearly recalls a childhood filled with questioning the world around him, which naturally lead to a life of scientific discovery. As a Neurobiologist, Jason’s curiosity spurred an unexpected finding as he studied the biology behind memory storage, encoding, and retrieval. Exploring the gene called ARC, which is essential to the synaptic plasticity that facilitates learning and cognition, Jason discovered that, at a biological level, the process of memory storage strongly resembles that of viral transmission.

Watch Jason’s TEDMED 2018 Talk to learn how a viral-like evolutionary remnant underlies human memory storage. By diving further into this genetic homology, we may be able to prevent memory related ailments, such as Alzheimer’s, before they strike.

Link to Talk: https://www.tedmed.com/talks/show?id=729641

August 20, 2019 / / - / Neuroscience

Shepherd Lab Receives Prestigious NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award (R01)

The Shepherd lab is honored to receive a prestigious NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award (R01) to study “Virus-Like Intercellular Communication in the Nervous System” with Co-PIs, Edward Campbell and Thomas Gallagher from Layola University in Chicago. This funding will support projects aimed to investigate the function and biology of intercellular Arc signaling.

Press Release: https://commonfund.nih.gov/tra/recipients

July 16, 2019 / / - / Neuroscience

Kyle Jenks receives University of Utah 2020 James W. Prahl Memorial award

Kyle Jenks defended his PhD thesis last year, the first Shepherd Lab graduate. We are very proud of Kyle, who will be going on to do his postdoc at MIT in the Sur lab.  Kyle was also recently notified that he is the 2020 James W. Prahl Memorial award recipient! This is the most prestigious graduate student award at the School of Medicine. Kyle’s dissertation focused on experience dependent plasticity in the visual cortex and how the memory protein, Arc, is a critical player in this process.

Prahl Award:


March 27, 2019 / / - / Neuroscience

Shepherd lab selected for the Ben Barres Early Career Acceleration Award from CZI!

The Shepherd lab was recently selected as a recipient of the Ben Barres Early Career Acceleration Award for the Chan-Zuckerberg initiative, which hopes to bring together new researchers with innovative ideas in the field of Alzheimer’s research. The Shepherd lab will receive 2.5 million over 5 years to fund work exploring new mechanisms that may help us understand or treat Alzheimer’s disease. Learn more below!
CZI announcement and mission statement
University of Utah announcement

Shepherd Lab in the news

Our recent findings concerning Arc’s role in intercellular RNA transfer and possible viral origin has received attention from Newsweek and Nature.

January 11, 2018 / / - / Neuroscience

New publication in Cell concerning Arc’s role in intercellular RNA transfer

The Shepherd lab is happy to announce the release of our newest paper in Cell, detailing a newly discovered function of Arc in intercellular RNA transfer. Huge congratulations to Drs. Elissa Pastuzyn and Cameron Day for their hard work. Link to Article>>



Dr. Shepherd awarded R01 through the National Institute of Mental Health

Dr. Jason Shepherd received an R01 through the National Institute of Mental Health to investigate the mechanism of Arc dependent synaptic plasticity.

August 1, 2017 / / - / Award, Neuroscience

Kyle Jenks Awarded NIMH F31, NRSA

Congratulations to Kyle Jenks for receiving a NRSA award from the National Institute of Mental Health!

December 6, 2016 / / - / Award, Neuroscience, Training

Our work discussed on the University of Utah’s Scope Radio

I discuss the focus of our work and how it relates to neurological diseases.

Scope Radio Interview

September 15, 2014 / / - / Education, In The News, Neuroscience

Neuron paper out online!

Our Neuron paper (paper link) describing a new GCaMP reporter mouse (a transgenic mouse that expresses a protein that can sense levels of calcium in cells) is out today! This was a great collaborative project between multiple Utah neuroscience labs. Exemplary of the close knit community here!

How to assess Science, Scientists and Science funding?

Nature published an interesting supplement (Supplement) that looks at how Science and scientists in New Zealand/Australia are evaluated and funded. I find this an interesting topic. Should there be “performance” outcomes like in industry? Should individual scientists be funded on their track record or based on individual projects? The NIH in the US is debating the same issues (NIH Funding). HHMI,  for example, has been hugely successful and funds individuals not projects.

August 1, 2014 / / - / Education, In The News

NY Times article “The kids who beat autism”

This article highlights the difficulty in studying autism but gives some hope to parents. It also shows how much more research needs to be done! Some kids seem to reverse their autism symptoms, behavioural therapy seems to help but is not necessary in some cases. Why some kids can make amazing progress and others not is unclear but is probably due to the distinct genetic underpinnings that cause such a wide spectrums of phenotypes.

NYTs Article

July 31, 2014 / / - / Education, In The News

Kyle Jenks awarded T32 NIH training grant

Congrats to Kyle who was awarded one of three T32 NIH training grant slots from the Utah neuroscience program!

June 4, 2014 / / - / Award, Education, In The News

Shepherd lab commentary on the SFARI website – molecular links between Schizophrenia and Autism


May 28, 2014 / / - / Neuroscience

NIH is encouraging scientists to use male AND females in their studies

Traditionally scientists mostly use one sex for their studies. Especially in neuroscience where behavioural differences may prove confounding. While I think this is a good idea, we could certainly be more efficient when using our animal colonies if we did discard females, it will certainly mean that monitoring whether there are sex differences in a study will make it a longer one.


May 14, 2014 / / - / Neuroscience

The University of Utah has some fantastic young scientists!

The Utah School of Medicine recently hosted a symposium highlighting new faculty who have won national competitive awards. The mini talks revolved around the human element of science as well as a primer on their exciting research.

Here’s a youtube video with highlights of these talks: Vitae Presentations

April 18, 2014 / / - / Education, In The News

The dilemma of too many students and postdocs in Science

The number of students and postdocs in Science has increased every decade but the number of tenure-track positions have not. This current bottle neck is well represented by this graphic: http://www.ascb.org/ascbpost/index.php/compass-points/item/285-where-will-a-biology-phd-take-you

An open discussion on this issue is sorely needed.

April 14, 2014 / / - / Education, In The News, Training

Visualizing proteins in a Cell

The closest you’ll get to taking a tour through the insides of a Neuron…very cool!