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Serena M. Dudek, Ph.D.

Senior Investigator

Neurobiology Laboratory / Synaptic & Developmental Plasticity Group


Building 101, Room F279
111 T.W. Alexander Drive
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709


Research Topics

One physiological function of the human brain is adapting the organism to its environment. In the brain, a primary effect of sensory exposures during postnatal development is on the strength of the synaptic contacts between neurons. Our main interest, therefore, has been to determine the molecular basis of long lasting synaptic plasticity. We focus on three aims in my laboratory: 1) how signals are rapidly transmitted to the nucleus to consolidate synaptic strengthening, 2) how synapses are weakened and eliminated during critical periods of postnatal development, and 3) how the process of synaptic plasticity is regulated in different brain regions. We use a diverse collection of molecular, biochemical, electrophysiological, and imaging techniques, primarily in brain slice preparations and neuron cultures from rodents. Recently, we have focused our efforts on a single region of the hippocampus, Hippocampal Area CA2, as neurons in this area express a number of genes distinct from the other CA regions that we found to regulate synaptic plasticity such as long-term depression (LTD) and long-term potentiation (LTP).


Dr. Dudek received her B.S. in Biology in 1986 from the University of California at Irvine, where she began working on synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus with Gary Lynch. In 1992, she earned her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Brown University, where she worked with Mark Bear on long-term synaptic depression in the hippocampus. Following postdoctoral work at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and at the NICHD, Dr. Dudek moved to NIEHS as an Investigator in 2001. Now a Senior Investigator, she directs laboratory studies on the cellular mechanisms of synaptic plasticity in the adult and developing mammalian cortex. She is the recipient of the 2009 A.E. Bennett Research Award from the Society of Biological Psychiatry.

Selected Publications

  1. Caruana DA, Alexander GM, Dudek SM. New insights into the regulation of synaptic plasticity from an unexpected place: hippocampal area CA2. Learn Mem. 2012;19(9):391-400.
  2. Simons SB, Caruana DA, Zhao M, Dudek SM. Caffeine-induced synaptic potentiation in hippocampal CA2 neurons. Nat Neurosci. 2011;15(1):23-5.
  3. Saha RN, Wissink EM, Bailey ER, Zhao M, Fargo DC, Hwang JY, Daigle KR, Fenn JD, Adelman K, Dudek SM. Rapid activity-induced transcription of Arc and other IEGs relies on poised RNA polymerase II. Nat Neurosci. 2011;14(7):848-56.
  4. Bastrikova N, Gardner GA, Reece JM, Jeromin A, Dudek SM. Synapse elimination accompanies functional plasticity in hippocampal neurons. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008;105(8):3123-7.
  5. Zhao M, Choi YS, Obrietan K, Dudek SM. Synaptic plasticity (and the lack thereof) in hippocampal CA2 neurons. J Neurosci. 2007;27(44):12025-32.
This page was last updated on April 10th, 2013