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Past Winner
2012 NSERC André Hamer Postgraduate Prize

Christina Natalie Nona

Pharmacology and Toxicology

University of Toronto

Christina Natalie Nona
Christina Natalie Nona

Illnesses of the brain can rob people not just of their physical health, but also of their sense of who they are and their ability to function in the world around them.

Christina Nona is researching two neural mechanisms found in the brain, kainate and NMDA receptors, and the role they play in learning and memory. These are two of the glutamate receptors, which are vital to the processes mediating learning and memory. Although much work has been done on NMDA receptors, little is known about the individual components of this receptor that might mediate learning and memory. Even less is known about the role of kainate receptors. Nona, winner of a master’s level NSERC 2012 André Hamer Postgraduate Prize, will shed light on the role of kainate and NMDA receptor subunits in learning and memory.

It is believed that enhanced memory and ability to learn are related to increased amounts of certain receptors, including NMDA and kainite receptors. Nona’s graduate studies at the University of Toronto will include experiments using the Barnes maze that will compare the performance of mice that have an enhanced ability to learn with those that do not.

By demonstrating improved performance and conducting detailed examinations of brain sections, Nona will further clarify neural mechanisms underlying learning and memory. Such knowledge could help improve treatment for those with maladaptive forms of learning and memory, such as those suffering from addictive disorders. It will also help those with Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive illnesses.