Jason Shepherd

In A Nutshell

Jason Shepherd's research reveals why we might have viruses to thank for our understanding of the biology of memories, cognition, and the ability to learn. 

About Jason

Taking on the major challenge of understanding how experience shapes neural networks and how circuits are modified by proteins/genes, Jason Shepherd has garnered worldwide recognition through the research in his lab, Shepherd Lab at the University of Utah School of Medicine. His work focuses on elucidating how the brain stores information from the molecular level through in vivo neuronal networks, and how these processes go awry in neurological disorders and in cognitive decline during aging. Looking specifically at Arc, the neuronal gene critical for long-term memory and synaptic plasticity, Jason's lab recently discovered that Arc has homology to retroviruses and is able to form viral-like capsids capable of transporting RNA. This finding provides a conceptual advance in our understanding of information encoding and storage in the brain. He has achieved many awards and honors, of which include him being a National Academy of Sciences Kavli Fellow and the recipient of the 2010 Gruber International Research Award in Neuroscience.

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Jason on the TEDMED Blog

"A protein in your brain behaves like a virus, infecting your cells with memories." Massive Science. 2019. 

"The Neuronal Gene Arc Encodes a Repurposed Retrotransposon Gag Protein that Mediates Intercellular RNA Transfer." Science Direct. 2018.

"Retrovirus-like Gag Protein Arc1 Binds RNA and Traffics across Synaptic Bouton." Science Direct. 2018.

"Prehistoric Viruses and the Function of the Brain." Scientific American. 2018.

Brain Cells Share Information With Virus-Like Capsules.” The Atlantic. 2018. 

Breakthrough in Memory Formation Research Reveals HIV-like Protein That 'Infects' the Brain.” Newsweek. 2018.

Memory gene goes viral.” National Institutes of Health. 2018.

Cells hack virus-like protein to communicate.” Nature. 2018.

Our memory comes from an ancient virus, neuroscientists say.” Big Think. 2018. 

Bizarre Protein That Influences Memory Behaves A Lot Like A Virus.” IFLScience. 2018.