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

All posts in Neuroscience

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!

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

Visualizing proteins in a Cell

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


Revolutionizing Psychiatry – NYTs article on NIMH director Thomas Insel

The National Institute of Mental Health is one of the largest funders of Neuroscience research in the world. This is an interesting article on how NIMH director Thomas Insel has single handedly turned the ship towards funding more mechanistic/biological neuroscience, which as a basic neuroscientist…I approve!


February 13, 2014 / / - / Education, In The News, Neuroscience

Reddit AMA

Today the Shepherd lab participated in a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) session:


It was a great experience with over 1000 comments/questions asked…awesome to get so much interest but humbling to see so many people affected by mental illness and other neurological disorders. 

February 6, 2014 / / - / Education, In The News, Neuroscience

Using social media for Science education – Shepherd lab hosting REDDIT AMA

The internet and social media has revolutionized how information is disseminated in society. Scientists have started to use social media to help talk about their work and make it more accessible to the general public. REDDIT is one of the most popular sites, especially those under 30. The Shepherd lab will be involved in a new initiative on REDDIT that aims to help the public interface with scientists. See http://www.reddit.com/r/science/comments/1vqimu/announcing_the_rscience_ama_series/

We will be hosting an AMA next Thursday Feb 6th 12 noon EST.

January 29, 2014 / / - / Education, In The News, Neuroscience

Arc mutations implicated in Schizophrenia

Two Nature papers that came online today implicate rare mutations in Arc in human patients with Schizophrenia. This has exciting implications for our work in understanding Arc’s role in neuronal function, as our work may now help shed light on this common psychiatric disorder!

Links to the papers, if anyone is interested but doesn’t have access let us know:



January 22, 2014 / / - / In The News, Neuroscience

Intersection between the environment and our genes

Great story about a neuroscientist’s personal encounter with his own genetic history and how that explains much of his behaviour but also highlights how genes aren’t everything. This interplay between environment and genes is precisely the plasticity my lab is trying to uncover! http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/01/life-as-a-nonviolent-psychopath/282271/

January 21, 2014 / / - / In The News, Neuroscience