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William T. Greenough

Division: Behavioral Neuroscience

Professor Emeritus of Psychology
Center for Global Studies

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Research Description

Research focuses upon cellular mechanisms underlying learning and memory and other brain information storage processes. Our prior work strongly implicates synapse formation as an adult memory mechanism: synapses form in situations in which animals are learning; synapses typically do not form as a result of non-learning-related neural activity; synapses can form within 10-15 minutes following the induction of long-term potentiation. Our current work addresses 1) the cellular mechanisms that mediate the translation from ephemeral nerve impulses to enduring synaptic change; 2) the broader response of non-neuronal tissue components such as glia and blood vessels to learning, and their possible roles in initiating and maintaining plastic change in nerve cells, and 3) the functional roles of these changes - how do they alter the organization of the nervous system in ways that can serve to encode memory? To answer these questions, this laboratory works at several levels, ranging from the molecular through the electrophysiological to the behavioral. At the molecular levels, we are examining roles of gene expression and of regulation of protein synthesis at the synapse using molecular biological and immunohistochemical methods. At the electrophysiological levels, we are investigating experience-induced alterations in sensory and motor system function. At the behavioral levels, in addition to the enriched environment paradigm that we have studied for years, we are currently utilizing several more specific adult learning paradigms. Much of the work involves computer-aided optical and electron microscopic techniques and state of the art quantitative methods. Other research interests include: psychobiology of mammalian development, quantitative anatomy, effects of physical exercise on the brain, magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy in brain, and the roles of astrocytes in brain function.


  • Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles


  • Psychology 400
  • Psychology 496

Recent Publications

Beckel-Mitchener, A. and Greenough, W.T. Correlates across the structural, functional, and molecular phenotypes of fragile X syndrome. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews, 10:53-59, 2004.

Black, J. E., Kodish, I., Grossman, A. W., Klintsova, A. Y., Orlovskaya, D., Vostrikov, V., Uranova, N., Greenough, W. T. Pathology of Layer V pyramidal neurons in schizophrenic prefrontal cortex. American Journal of Psychiatry, 161: 742-744, 2004.

Briones, T.L., Klintsova, A.Y., Greenough, W.T. Stability of synaptic plasticity in the adult rat visual cortex induced by complex environment exposure. Brain Res., Aug 20;1018(1):130-5, 2004.

Dong, W.K. and Greenough, W. T. Plasticity of non-neuronal brain tissue: Roles in developmental disorders. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews, 10:85-90, 2004.

Weiler, I.J., Spangler, C.C., Klintsova, A.Y., Grossman, A.W., Kim, S.H., Bertaina-Anglade, V., Khaliq, H., de Vries, F.E., Lambers, F.A.E., Hatia, F., Base, C.K., and Greenough, W.T. Fragile X mental retardation protein is necessary for neurotransmitter-activated protein translation at synapses. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 101:17504-17509, 2004.