13th Annual Mariann Blum
Memorial Lectureship in the Neurosciences

March 9th, 2016 - 12:00 Noon
Long Campus Medical Bldg Room 444B


Mariann BlumDr. Mariann Blum (pictured right) was a native Houstonian and biochemist who focused on how neurons damaged by Parkinson's Disease can be stimulated to survive or regenerate. Her scientific work also changed the way neuroscientists think about the brain. Her careful analysis of the levels of the growth-factor genes throughout the development of the brain found that levels actually were highest in the adult animal. This led to the observation that growth factors continued to be very important in the brain, even after it was fully formed. Blum published more than 60 peer-reviewed papers and reviews in her too-short scientific career, supervised five doctoral candidates, and trained more than 12 post-doctoral fellows and visiting faculty members.


Known to most of her friends as "Poco," she received a BS in biochemistry from the University of Texas at Austin in 1977. In 1982, she earned a doctorate in biochemistry at the UT Medical Branch in Galveston. In the same year, she enrolled in the Rockefeller University in New York as a post-doctoral student of the renowned neuroscientist, Dr. Bruce McEwen. Appointed to the adjunct faculty at Rockefeller, she also trained in molecular neurobiology in the laboratory of Dr. James Roberts at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Blum joined the faculty of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York in 1986 as an assistant professor in the Dr. Arthur M. Fishberg Research Center for Neurobiology. In 1993 she rose to the rank of associate professor with a secondary appointment in the Department of Geriatrics and Adult Development. In 2002, she became Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio with an appointment in the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital. Throughout her career, her research was funded by grants from the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke and the National Institute of Aging.


Blum Lectureship Guest LecturerThis year's guest speaker will be Marina E. Wolf, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Neuroscience, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in North Chicago, Illinois. She has been a pioneer in studying the role of neuronal plasticity in drug addiction. Dr. Wolf received her Ph.D. in Pharmacology in 1986 from Yale University. From 1987-1990, she trained as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Cell Biology at Sinai Hospital of Detroit. After completing her postdoctoral training, Dr. Wolf was Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Wayne State University until moving in 1992 to the Chicago Medical School. Dr. Wolf’s research has been supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) since 1992. Her current grants include two R01 Awards from NIDA. She has previously been the recipient of a Merit Award and a Senior Scientist Research and Mentorship Award (K05) from NIDA. She has also received support from the National Institute of Mental Health, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturer’s Association Foundation (PMAF), and the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD). Dr. Wolf has served as a member of the NIDA Advisory Council and the NIH Council of Councils. Other honors include Phi Beta Kappa, predoctoral and postdoctoral fellowships from NSF, PMAF and NIH, and election as a fellow of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP). She presently serves as Chair of an NIH study section, as well as on the NIDA Board of Scientific Counselors and the Council of the ACNP.

Glutamate is a key transmitter for neuronal plasticity and learning. My lab and others have shown that behavioral changes in animal models of addiction require glutamate-dependent forms of plasticity, and that learning and addiction involve common brain signaling pathways and cellular changes. Thus, addiction may be viewed as a form of maladaptive but extremely strong learning. An important question is how drugs like cocaine and amphetamine, which initially target dopamine (DA) systems in the brain, ultimately produce adaptations in glutamate neurotransmission. A better understanding of plasticity mechanisms engaged by drugs of abuse may lead to the development of pharmacological treatments for drug dependency and craving.


She will be presenting her lecture titled: 'Synaptic mechanisms maintaining persistent cocaine craving'