Patricia Sacks

Mentor: Dr. Sara Burke
College of Medicine
" I had always loved learning about the brain- its structures, its pathways, its mastery over the rest of the body; however, it was not until I met my research mentor, Dr. Burke, that my "hobby" of studying the brain evolved into my current research endeavor. I believe that the research I’m conducting has a profound potential to benefit people on a large scale, especially the elderly community. As it stands now, there is no drug that exists to treat age-associated cognitive decline in spatial working memory ability. Furthermore, I feel that much more time and resources have been put towards developing therapeutic interventions to prevent the type of memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease rather than the memory loss brought on by normal aging. While Alzheimer’s research is significant and necessary, studies on cognitive decline as a function of normal aging will benefit an even greater number of people- not just those suffering from a neurodegenerative disease. My current study is only the beginning. I have so many ideas for future projects and am passionate about developing methods to prevent cognitive decline so that people will have the mental capacity to fully experience every moment of their lives."





Research Interests

  • Cognitive Aging
  • Spatial Working Memory
  • Neurodegenerative Disease

Academic Awards

  • University Honors Program
  • Induction into the National Collegiate Honor Society
  • Dean's List 2014-2015
  • University Scholars Program


  • Center for Leadership & Service Student Advisory Board
  • ESOL Achievers
  • Florida Alternative Breaks


  • Al'z Place - Model Adult Daycare for Alzheimer's Patients
  • Gainesville High School - Tutoring Math & Physical Science
  • Suncoast Hospice

Hobbies and Interests

  • Tennis
  • Cooking
  • Spending time with my family, dog, and two cats

Research Description

Spatial Pattern Separation Ability in Young and Aged Rats
As human life expectancy continues to increase, developing better methods to maintain and preserve our cognitive health has become an exceedingly important area of research. The overall goal of my laboratory is to gain a better understanding of the neural mechanisms which underlie cognitive decline in order to devise beneficial therapeutic interventions. My personal study within the laboratory focuses on spatial pattern separation and the way it is affected as a function of age. The aims of my study are as follows: 1. To compare spatial working memory ability in young and aged rats, 2. To investigate the neurobiological cause(s) underlying the performance differences between the young and aged rats on the spatial pattern separation (SPS) task, and 3. To discover a pharmacological therapy that slows or prevents age-associated spatial working memory decline.