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Prodigies and Their Mentor Lead Charge to Cure the Brain’s Ills

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 7, 2016) — Ewan McNay is eager, both to conquer obstacles to long-term brain health and to inspire upcoming researchers to share this goal.

McNay, associate professor of behavioral neuroscience in the Department of Psychology, focuses his work on metabolic variables that regulate cognition, whether positive (glucose, exercise, caffeine) or negative (diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer's disease). Currently, he’s concentrating on the mechanisms linking type 2 diabetes to Alzheimer's disease, and on the role of insulin within the brain as a regulator of cognitive processes, such as memory.

All of this work relies on contributions from graduate and undergraduate students who are mentored to follow McNay’s lead, aided by funding from both government and charitable foundations. His lab has won top awards for student research excellence every year since his arrival in Albany.

One example in 2014 was the work of Roi Ankawa ’16, an honors biochemistry/molecular biology major who took part in the SUNY Research Foundation’s Brain Summer Scholars Program, supported in part by the National Science Foundation. A second student, Kelsey O'Leary, graduated this year with research excellence awards from UAlbany, SUNY, and nationally.

Both Anwaka and O'Leary worked on interventions that might ameliorate the impact of type 2 diabetes on the brain, including blockade of the Alzheimer's protein beta-amyloid and dietary antioxidant supplementation.

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