Professor joins USF Center for Aging and Brain Repair

Losing your keys is a common human experience, and some people even view forgetfulness as a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. However, Ronald Mervis, who recently joined the facility at USF’s Department of Neurosurgery and the Center for Aging and Brain Repair, said the real issue is not when your keys are lost. The problem is incurred when you find your keys and do not know what to do with them.

Mervis, who earned his Ph.D. in neuroscience, was recently named to the faculty as an associate professor to seek further research opportunities in Alzheimer’s.

“There is a good opportunity for collaborations here with other faculty members, and the University of South Florida also encouraged me to bring my company down from Ohio,” he said.

The company will strengthen USF’s Alzheimer’s research facilities after losing the Roskamp Institute when Michael Mullan resigned from USF in February.

Mullan, leader of two research institutes at USF, resigned a sexual harassment investigation relocating funds and scientist along with the Roskamp Institute.

He said the Alzheimer’s disease and aging brain research programs at USF sparked his interest to facilitate additional research collaborations and gain additional understanding in a field that is characterized by its spontaneity and radical discoveries.

“My plans here at the university are to develop an excellent research program, to bring in grant support and to teach students neuroscience,” he said.

Mervis’ main research laboratory, NeuroStructural Research Labs, is located just minutes off campus. This is a non-profit educational research facility that allows Mervis and his assistants to evaluate various brain disorders and, in some cases, assist in developing potential treatments for such ailments.

The lab specializes in using a special stain that allows the microscopic assessment of the branching and connections of individual neurons. For example, Mervis said, in Alzheimer’s disease, his lab is able to show when branching in neurons begin to shrink and lose connection. This disruption of brain circuits may underlie memory loss associated with this disease. Mervis said this assessment of nerve cells may help in explaining the effects of various other diseases on neurons of the brain.

Mervis has overseen several undergraduate, graduate and medical students who received awards for their research in his lab. He has also received national and international recognition for his research on neuronal morphology.

Mervis has had faculty appointments, taught and carried out brain research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, N.Y., and at the Ohio State University College of Medicine

Mervis said he is currently looking for undergraduate or graduate students who are willing to learn neuroscience research methods and assist him in his research. The students may be eligible to receive independent study credit in assisting with the brain research, Mervis said.

“Basically, the research involves everything from brain aging and Alzheimer’s disease to brain development and brain damage,” Mervis said. “This gives students the opportunity to learn more about neuroscience … and not only to learn, but to be given appropriate recognition on scientific abstracts and publications if he or she has contributed significantly to the research.”

Any students interested in participating can e-mail Mervis at rmervis@hsc.usf.edu, or call him at (813) 972-5535.

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