Bourtchouladze, Rusiko

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BOURTCHOULADZE, Rusiko

PERSONAL:

Born in Tbilisi, USSR (now Georgia). Education: Earned Ph.D.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Helicon Therapeutics, Inc., 500 Sunnyside Blvd., Woodbury, NY 11797. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Helicon Therapeutics, Inc., Woodbury, NY, director of model systems; Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, NY, adjunct associate professor; formerly affiliated with Columbia University.

WRITINGS:

Memories Are Made of This: How Memory Works in Humans and Animals, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Contributor of articles on memory research to various scholarly periodicals.

SIDELIGHTS:

Memory researcher Rusiko Bourtchouladze's first book, Memories Are Made of This: How Memory Works in Humans and Animals, presents an explanation of the field of memory research, including the author's own scientific work on the genetics of memory. Writing for a lay reader, Bourtchouladze describes the field of memory research begining with the first recorded theories of memory in the philosophy of the ancient Greeks. She then moves on to early modern psychology, as nineteenth-century researchers began doing basic studies on short-term and long-term memories by asking subjects to remember something and then examining how their memories decayed over time. As this type of research continued into the twentieth century, psychologists began noting the existence of different types of memory. These included available memories—those that can be called up by the subject at will—and accessible memories—those that require some sort of prompting or a trigger for the subject to recall. Bourtchouladze then discusses the most cutting-edge research, including her own work. These more recent experiments examine the genetic and biochemical mechanisms at work in memory formation. Bourtchouladze's research focuses on a gene in mice that produces the protein CREB. When the gene is switched off and the protein is not created in the mouse's brain, the animal becomes unable to create long-term memories, yet its short-term memory appears to be unimpaired. With an increased academic and commercial interest in the field, Bourtchouladze is working on developing drugs to improve memory.

While Bourtchouladze often describes technical topics, in Memories Are Made of This she does so "lucidly, writing considerably more smoothly and thoughtfully than many other scientists who write for general readers," William Beatty commented in Booklist. John McCrone, writing for the Times Literary Supplement, also commended Bourtchouladze's style, calling her writing "tidy" and noting that it "gets better as the tale becomes more personal." Leonardo contributor Robert Pepperell, on the other hand, was more measured in his praise. Bourtchouladze "is at her best" at the beginning of the book when laying out her "historical narrative," Pepperell wrote, but he thought that when describing her own research, she "slips into a rather technical mode of writing" that is less accessible to a nonspecialist. Still, Pepperell concluded that Memories Are Made of This "should serve as a helpful introductory textbook to this important subject to students in a variety of disciplines."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, July, 2002, William Beatty, review of Memories Are Made of This: How Memory Works in Humans and Animals, p. 1807.

Cell, 2003, David F. Clayton, review of Memories Are Made of This, p. 453-454.

Leonardo, October, 2003, Robert Pepperell, review of Memories Are Made of This.

Times Literary Supplement, January 30, 2004, John McCrone, review of Memories Are Made of This, p. 3.

ONLINE

Columbia University Press Web Site,http://www.columbia.edu/ (September 13, 2004), "About the Author: Rusiko Bourtchouladze."

Countrybookshop,http://www.countrybookstore.co.uk/ (September 13, 2004), "Author Information: Rusiko Bourtchouladze."

Helicon Therapeutics Web Site,http://www.helicontherapeutics.com/ (September 30, 2004), "Contact Us."