Mary Ann Wilson PhD

Associate Professor of Neurology
Telephone Number: 443-923-2691
Fax Number: 443-923-2695

Kennedy Krieger Institute
707 N Broadway
Baltimore, MD 21205
Room: KKI, Room 400L
Areas of Research

Graduate Program Affiliations

Neuroscience Training Program

Mechanisms of Development, Plasticity and Injury in the Immature Brain

Excitatory amino acids are important neurotransmitters in the developing brain, but excess stimulation of EAA receptors can injure nerve tissue. Excitatory amino acids contribute to many forms of acute and chronic neuronal injury including hypoxia/ischemia, status epilepticus, trauma and neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease. The developing brain is particularly vulnerable to excitotoxic injury, due in part to the expression of immature glutamate receptors.

Dr. Wilson studies the developing brain’s responses to excitotoxic injury and toxins, in order to develop strategies to prevent or reduce neuronal damage. Dr. Wilson works to relate changes in the expression of glutamate receptors and other genes to changes in the vulnerability of particular cell groups to injury.

Lead is a widespread environmental contaminant that is toxic to nerve tissue. Lead poisoning constitutes a major medical issue worldwide, including numerous US cities such as Baltimore. Despite efforts to reduce the amount of lead in the environment, lead poisoning is common among poor urban children; approximately 5% of the children tested in Baltimore from 1996 to 1998 suffered blood lead levels greater than 20 mg/dl.

Currently one of the things Dr. Wilson is working on is a project to evaluate the hypothesis that glutamate receptors have a critical role in the long-lasting effects of lead exposure during brain development. The "Barrel Field" in the primary somatosensory cortex of rodents is used as a model system for these studies. Rodents have distinct clusters of neurons in the cerebral cortex, called "barrels", that process sensory input from the whiskers. Dr. Wilson and her colleagues use this model to evaluate alterations in cortical development and plasticity caused by neonatal lead exposure.

Back to faculty profiles