Brianne Kent (PhD)
Brianne A Kent
Alzheimer's disease and other dementias threaten to become one of the greatest public health challenges of the 21st century, with an increasing number of aging people throughout the world at risk. As a translational neuroscientist, my research bridges basic science and clinical application.
In 2019, I joined the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, funded by a NINDS K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award. The goal of our research is to develop methods for studying circadian rhythms in elderly and patients with Alzheimer's disease to assess how disrupted rhythms could be contributing to the sleep disturbances and memory loss associated with the disease.
University of British Columbia
2015 - 2019, Vancouver, Canada
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
As a postdoctoral fellow, I worked with Drs Haakon Nygaard and Howard Feldman at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health at UBC, to investigate the link between circadian rhythms and memory impairment in Alzheimer’s disease. Our work had a clear focus on translation, aiming to bring novel discoveries to the clinic. The goal of my project was to investigate whether changes in sleep patterns and circadian rhythms can be used as reliable biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease, and whether chronobiology can provide a useful framework for developing inexpensive and noninvasive methods for slowing disease progression. Learn more about our work at UBC in a profile here or in my talk here.
This work was made possible by generous funding from a Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship, Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Trainee Award, Canadian Institutes of Health Research Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship, and the Charles Fipke donation for Alzheimer's research at UBC.
University of Cambridge
2011 - 2015, Cambridge, UK
My PhD research focused on how the healthy brain forms memories, as well as what causes the memory loss associated with neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. The majority of my dissertation work examined the role of new brain cells in the dentate gyrus region of the hippocampus. These young cells seem particularly important when the memory centres of the brain need to disambiguate highly similar inputs, a process referred to as "pattern separation". My PhD was funded by a Gates Cambridge Fellowship and Alexander Graham Bell Canadian Graduate Scholarship (NSERC-CGS-D).
2009 - 2011, New Haven, USA
MSc and MPhil
During menopause, women experience declining levels of the circulating female sex hormones, estrogens and progestagens. Unfortunately, these hormonal changes are accompanied by increases in age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. My Masters research examined the specific contributions of distinct estrogen receptors in hippocampal memory processes. Understanding these signaling pathways has the potential to aid in the design of more effective therapies that provide the beneficial effects of estrogen on cognition while minimizing the deleterious side effects associated with hormone replacement therapy (e.g., breast and uterine cancer, heart disease, and stroke). I was funded by a Yale University Graduate Fellowship and Alexander Graham Bell Canadian Graduate Scholarship (NSERC-CGS-M).
MSc Thesis The differential effects of intrahippocampal infusions of ERα and ERβ agonists on object memory consolidation, depressive symptoms, and phosphorylated ERK levels in mice, with Dr. Karyn Frick
MPhil Thesis Dual functions of the perirhinal cortex in fear conditioning, with Dr. Thomas Brown
Simon Fraser University
2004 - 2009, Burnaby, Canada
Circadian rhythms are endogenously generated biological processes that approximate daily changes in the external environment. Along with the well-established role of light in adjusting these biological rhythms, food (i.e., meal time) can also play a role in synchronizing daily physiological processes. My research examined whether the dorsomedial hypothalamus, which has a role in body weight regulation and sleep-wake behaviours, acts as a pacemaker for synchronizing daily activity with meal time. Because many diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, are accompanied by disrupted eating patterns and circadian rhythms, researching food-entrainment has potential value for understanding and treating human conditions.
Honours Thesis The role of the dorsomedial hypothalamic nuclei (DMH) during circadian adaptations to temporally restricted feeding schedules, with Dr. Ralph Mistlberger
In addition to research, I am committed to advocating for change in the practice and communication of science. Here is a brief summary of some of our initiatives trying to improve support for early career researchers and make research more accessible, transparent, and reproducible.
eLife is a not-for-profit open access scientific journal, launched by research funders and led by scientists. The eLife mission is to help scientists accelerate discovery by operating a platform for research communication that encourages and recognizes the most responsible behaviours in science. I was an invited member of the Early Careers Advisory Group from 2014 - 2019 and was elected to Chair the group in 2017 and 2018. The advisory board helps guide the direction of the journal and the eLife initiative more broadly.
For a 2019 summary of our initiatives check out my blog post here or ECRLife.org, which provides updates on the initiatives being driven by the eLife Community Ambassadors Program that we launched in 2018. The Community Ambassadors were recruited to help catalyze improvements in the way science is communicated and performed.
#ECRWednesday Webinar: Mental health support for early career researchers
#ECRWednesday Webinar: Organising and advocating for early career researchers
#ECRWednesday Webinar: Supporting preprints in the life sciences
#ECRWednesday Webinar: Private funding in the life sciences
#ECRWednesday Webinar: Graphic design tips for creating effective figures
Future of Research Canada - Vancouver
Future of Research Vancouver aims to develop recommendations for policy changes that are needed in Canada to retain the most promising and skilled researchers. Current job structures in science, and opportunities for funding, training, and support make careers in research unpredictable and insecure for many of Canada’s young scientists. A more sustainable career environment could secure world-leading science in Canada, which will be vital to deal with health, environmental, agricultural, and economic challenges to come.
Future of Research has been successful at improving conditions for postdocs in the US. We are hopeful that Future of Research Canada can encourage similar positive changes here.
We have published our recommendations for Canada in a peer-reviewed report with the open access journal F1000. To find out more, follow us on twitter @FOR_Van and meet with our representative at the Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC/CAPS).
Ratcliff, M., Rees, D., McGrady S., Bayliss, J., Kent, B. A., Bussey, T. J., Saksida, L. M., Howell, O. W., Morgan, A. H., Sun, Y, Andrews, Z. B.,Wells, T., Davies, J. S. (2019). Calorie restriction increases new adult born olfactory-bulb neurones in a ghrelin-dependent manner but acyl-ghrelin does not enhance sub-ventricular zone neurogenesis. Journal of Neuroendocrinology.
Kent, B. A., Michalik, M., Marchant, E. G., Yau, K. W., Feldman, H. H., Mistlberger, R. E., Nygaard, H. B. (2019). Delayed daily activity and reduced NREM slow wave power in the APP/PS1 mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Neurobiology of Aging.
Miranda, M., Kent, B. A., Morici, J. F., Gallo, F., Saksida, L. M., & Bussey, T. J., Weisstaub, N. V., Bekinschtein, P. (2018). NMDA receptors and BDNF are necessary for discrimination of overlapping spatial and non-spatial memories in perirhinal cortex and hippocampus. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.
Nygaard, H. B., Omay, Z. E., Wu, S., Kent, B. A., Bernales, C. Q., Evans, D. M., Farrer, M., Vilarino-Guell, C., Strittmatter, S. M. (2018). Whole exome sequencing of an exceptional longevity cohort. Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences.
Kent, B. A., Heath, C., Kim, C-H., Ahrens, R., Fraser, P. E., St George-Hyslop, P., Bussey, T. J., & Saksida, L. M. (2018). Longitudinal evaluation of Tau-P301L transgenic mice reveals no impairment at 17 months of age. Brain and Behavior.
Miranda, M., Kent, B. A., Morici, J. F., Galo, F., Saksida, L. M., & Bussey, T. J., Weisstaub, N. V., Bekinschtein, P. (2017). Molecular mechanisms in perirhinal cortex selectively necessary for discrimination of overlapping memories, but independent of memory persistence. eNeuro.
Kent, B. A., Hvoslef-Eide, M., Saksida, L. M., & Bussey, T. J. (2016) The representational-hierarchical view of pattern separation: Not just hippocampus, not just space, not just memory? Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 129, 99-106.
Nilsson, S. R. O., Celada, P., Fejgin, K., Thelin, J., Nielsen, J., Santana, N., Heath, C. J., Larsen, P. H., Nielsen, V., Kent, B. A., Robbins, T. W., Saksida, L. M., Bastlund, J. F., Bussey, T. J., Artigas, F., Didriksen, M. A. (2016). Mouse model of the 15q13.3 microdeletion syndrome shows prefrontal neurophysiological dysfunctions and associated attentional impairment. Psychopharmacology, 233(11), 2151-2163.
Nilsson, S. R. O., Fejgin, K., Gastambide, F., Vogt, M. A., Kent, B. A., Nielsen, V., Nielsen, J., Gass, P., Robbins, T. W., Saksida, L. M., Stensbal, T. B., Tricklebank, M. D., Didriksen, M., Bussey, T. J. (2016). Assessing the cognitive translational potential of a mouse model of the 22q11.2 microdeletion syndrome. Cerebral Cortex, 26(10), 3991-4003.
Kent, B. A., Oomen, C. A., Bekinschtein, P., Saksida, L. M., & Bussey, T. J. (2015). Cognitive enhancing effects of voluntary exercise, caloric restriction and environmental enrichment: a role for adult hippocampal neurogenesis and pattern separation? Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 4, 179-185.
Kim, C. H., Heath, C. J., Kent, B. A., Bussey, T. J., & Saksida. L. M. (2015). The role of the dorsal hippocampus in two versions of the touchscreen automated paired associates learning (PAL) task for mice. Psychopharmacology, 232(21-22), 3899-3910.
Kent, B. A., Beynon, A. L., Hornsby, A. K., Bekinschtein, P., Bussey, T. J., Davies, J. S., Saksida, L. M. (2015). The orexigenic hormone acyl-ghrelin increases adult hippocampal neurogenesis and enhances pattern separation. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 51,431-439.
Green-Thompson, M. Z., Nixon, R. A., Saksida, L. M., Bussey, T. J., O’Kane, C., & Rubinsztein, D. C. (2014). Calpain inhibition mediates autophagy-dependent protection against polyglutamine toxicity. Cell Death and Differentiation, 433–444.
Oomen, C. A., Bekinschtein, P., Kent, B. A., Saksida, L. M., & Bussey, T. J. (2014). Adult hippocampal neurogenesis and its role in cognition. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 5(5), 573-587.
Bekinschtein, P.*, Kent, B. A.*, Oomen, C. A., Clemenson, G. D., Gage, F. H., Saksida, L. M., & Bussey, T. J. (2014). BDNF interacts with adult-born immature cells in the dentate gyrus during consolidation of overlapping memories. Hippocampus, 24(8), 905-911.
Bekinschtein, P., Kent, B. A., Oomen, C. A., Clemenson, G. D., Gage, F. H., Saksida, L. M., & Bussey, T. J. (2013). Consolidating unique memories: BDNF in the dentate gyrus is required for spatial pattern separation. Cell Reports, 5, 1-10.
Mar, A., Horner, A. E., Nilsson, S., Alsiö, J., Kent, B. A., Kim, C. H., Holmes, A., Saksida, L. M., Bussey, T. J (2013). The touchscreen operant platform for rodents: tests of executive function. Nature Protocols, 8, 1985-2005.
Horner, A. E., Heath, C. J., Hvoslef-Eide, M., Kent, B. A., Kim, C., Nilsson, S., Alsiö, J., Oomen, C. A., Holmes, A., Saksida, L. M., Bussey, T. J. (2013). The touchscreen operant platform for testing learning and memory in rats and mice. Nature Protocols, 8, 1961-1984.
Orr, P. T., Rubin, A. J., Fan, L., Kent, B. A., Frick, K. M. (2012). The progesterone-induced enhancement of object recognition memory consolidation involves activation of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathways in the dorsal hippocampus. Hormones and Behavior, 61, 487-495.
Boulware, M. I., Kent, B. A., & Frick, K. M. (2011). The impact of age-related hormone loss on cognitive and neural function. In: Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences: Behavioral Neurobiology of Aging, Pardon, M. C., & Bondi, M. (Eds). Springer-Verlag:Berline-Hiedelberg.
Landry, G. J., Kent, B. A., Patton, D. F., Jaholkowski, M., Marchant, E. G., Mistlberger, R. E. (2011). Evidence for time-of-day dependent effect of neurotoxic dorsomedial hypothalamic lesions on food anticipatory circadian rhythms in rats. PLoS One, 6(9), e24187.
Thank you to the generous funding agencies that have made my research possible.
Available for consulting projects and mentorship. I have worked as an Education Consultant since 2012, helping students navigate applications to graduate schools in North America and Europe.