Dr. Catrina Robinson's aptitude and commitment to succeed has been consistently exemplified through academia, interdisciplinary achievements, and volunteerism. She graduated cum laude with a B.S. degree in Laboratory Technology/Medical Technology from Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, in 2004, with numerous academic achievements. Dr. Robinson continued to exemplify academic excellence during her graduate career at Auburn University where she received three different "Outstanding Graduate Student of the Year" awards. She was the first African American female to earn a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences with a specialty in Pharmacology and Toxicology from Auburn University in 2007. Upon joining Dr. Eva Feldman's laboratory as a Research Fellow in January 2008, Dr. Robinson quickly became an important and productive member of the scientific team. She was awarded a 1-year position on the highly competitive Neurology T32 Training Grant and then a 2-year position of the Bio gerontology T32 Training Grant. Overall, throughout her graduate and academic career, Dr. Robinson has published 11 manuscripts including one book chapter, with one additional first-author manuscript currently under review. Dr. Robinson was promoted to Research Investigator in the Neurology Department at the University of Michigan in November of 2011. Her continued success and progress attest to her determination to be a successful independent investigator. Environment The University of Michigan provides an excellent environment for Dr. Robinson to achieve and excel as an independent investigator. The Department of Neurology in the Medical School at the University of Michigan offers a vast spectrum of clinical and basic science specialties, including stroke, neuromuscular disease, neurooncology, and a cognitive disease program. The multidisciplinary environment within the neuroscience community at the University of Michigan will foster cooperation, collaboration, productivity and an overall focused research plan. Furthermore, the strong collaboration between Dr. Robinson, Dr. Feldman, Dr. Murphy, and her Career Committee forms the core of Dr. Robinson's scientific training and will provide her with the necessary career guidance to ensure success. Research Plan Obesity increases the risk for cognitive impairment. Given that both obesity and cognitive impairment are epidemics in the United States, it is imperative to understand the mechanisms linking the two together. Studies have demonstrated that improving insulin signaling in the central nervous system (CNS) has a positive impact on cognition;however, obese individuals are excluded from such studies. This is likely due to lack of knowledge of the correlation between obesity and insulin signaling in the CNS.
The first aim of assesses the impact of obesity on insulin signaling in the hippocampus. We hypothesize that CNS insulin resistance is a major contributing factor to reduced levels of insulin in the CNS. Furthermore, while it has been established that insulin plays a role in hippocampal synaptic plasticity and cognition, it is not known whether obesity- induced effects in the CNS are reversible. As the population of obese children and adults continue to age, it is important to develop effective strategies to prevent a public health crisis among this population. Therefore, the second aim of the current proposal evaluates the potential long-term impact of obesity on neuroplasticity. We contend that synaptic and cognitive changes will have long-lasting consequence that cannot be overcome with dietary intervention. Together, the findings in the proposed studies will have a tremendous impact on the field by bridging the gap between obesity and cognitive impairment. Career Goals and Career Development Plan this proposal is essential to promote Dr. Robinson's career development and to lay the research foundation for her laboratory. Her goal is to become a highly trained independent investigator with a focus on linking metabolic syndrome and Alzheimer's disease onset and progression. This K01 career development award will provide the foundation for her to develop the skills to become an expert and productive member of the neuroscience community. Specifically, the career development plan outlined for Dr. Robinson consists of an integrated program of career development workshops, multidisciplinary conferences, and practical research experiences that will establish a strong foundation in neurodegeneration, obesity, publishing and securing funding, and project management. This program will be overseen by an enthusiastic and supportive mentoring team from multiple departments at the University of Michigan. The expertise that Dr. Robinson will gain from the group of mentors and consultants will prove to be vital to her development into a young independent neuroscientist.
Obesity is associated with an increased risk of developing cognitive impairment. Due to the associated economic cost, the obesity epidemic, and the increasing aging population, it is important to understand the mechanisms that underlie cognitive decline among the obese population. The current proposal will investigate the impact of obesity on cognition and hippocampal function in a rodent model of obesity. Knowledge gained from these studies will aid in the development of therapies to reduce or prevent cognitive impairment among the obese population.