Karen D. Parfitt

Professor of Neuroscience
  • Expertise


    Karen Parfitt studies synaptic transmission in the hippocampus, an area of the brain known to be critical for the consolidation of experience into long-term memory. Using electrophysiological recording in the hippocampus of mice, she seeks to develop an understanding of the molecular mechanisms of memory as well as changes in synaptic transmission that occur in various disease states such as Alzheimer’s Disease. Using the fruit fly Drosophila, she also studies molecular mechanisms of neurotransmitter release.

    Research Interests

    • Neuroscience
    • Synaptic physiology and plasticity
    • Molecular mechanisms of neurotransmitter release
    • Neurobiology of Alzheimer’s Disease
    • Effects of exercise on synaptic plasticity

    Areas of Expertise


    • Molecular Mechanisms of Neurotransmitter Release
    • Synaptic Physiology and Plasticity
    • Neurobiology of Aging
  • Work


    Morrissey, J.M., Bigus, E. ‘19#Necarsulmer, J.C., ’15#, Srinivasan, V. ’16# , Peppercorn, K.,  Mockett, B.G.,  Tate, W.P.,  Hughes, S.M., Parfitt, K.D. and  Abraham, W.C.  (2019) The Tripeptide RER Mimics Secreted Amyloid Precursor Protein-Alpha in Upregulating LTP. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 13:459-471. (#: undergraduate, Pomona College).

    Mockett, B.G., Guévremont, D., Elder, M., Parfitt, K.D., Peppercorn, K., Morrissey, J., Singh, A., Hintz,T.J., Kochen, L., Tom Dieck, S, Schuman, E.M, Tate, W.P., Williams, J.M., and Abraham, W.C. (2019) Glutamate receptor trafficking and protein synthesis mediate the facilitation of LTP by secreted amyloid precursor protein–alpha; Journal of Neuroscience, 39: 3188-3203. 

    Wiertelak, E.P., Hardwick, J., Kerchner, M., Parfitt, K.D., & Ramirez, J.J.  “The New Blueprints: Undergraduate Neuroscience Education in the Twenty-First Century,” (2018) Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education

    Tan, V.T.Y., Mockett, B.G., Ohline, S., Parfitt, K.D., Wickie, H.E., Peppercorn, K., Schoderboeck, L., Yahaya, M.F., Tate, W.P., Hughes, S.M. and Abraham, W.C. “Lentivirus-mediated expression of human secreted amyloid precursor protein-alpha prevents development of memory and plasticity deficits in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s Disease,”  (2018) Molecular Brain 11:7.

    Aby, E.S.’11, Gumps, K. #, Roth, A.J.’11, Sigmon, S.#, Kim, J.J. ’08, Kramer, N.J.’11, Parfitt, K.D., and Korey, C.A.  (2013) “Mutations in palmitoyl-protein thioesterase 1 alter exocytosis and endocytosis at synapses in Drosophila larvae,”  Fly7(4):267-279.

    Krans, J.L., Parfitt, K.D., Gawera, K.D., Rivlin, P.K. and Hoy, R.R. (2009) “The resting membrane potential of Drosophila melanogaster larval muscle depends strongly on external calcium concentration,” Journal of Insect Physiology, 2009

    Bisel, B.E*., Henkins, K.* and Parfitt, K.D. The Alzheimer amyloid ß-peptide Aß25-35 blocks adenylate cyclase-mediated forms of hippocampal long term potentiation (LTP). (2007) Annals of the NY Academy of Sciences, 1097: 58-63.

    Johnson, K.G., Tenney, A.P., Duckworth, A., Parfitt, K.D., Marcu, O., Heslip, T.R., Marsh, J.L., Flanagan, J.G., and van Vactor, D. (2006) The HSPGs Syndecan and Dallylike bind the receptor phosphatase LAR and exert distinct effects on synaptic development. Neuron, 49:517-531.

    With G.F. Reis, M.B. Lee, and A.S. Huang, "Adenylate Cyclase-mediated Forms of Synaptic Potentiation in Hippocampal Area CA1 are Reduced with Aging," Journal of Neurophysiology, 93:3381-3389, 2005

    With N. Reist, J. Li, R. Burgess, D. Deitcher, A. DiAntonio, and T.L. Schwarz, "Drosophila Genetics and the Functions of Synaptic Proteins," Cold Spring Harbor Symposia in Quantitative Biology, 60, 371-377, 1995

    With P. Bickford, A.M.-Y. Lin, and M.R. Palmer, "The Effects of Aging on the Interaction of Ethanol with Chemical Neurotransmission in the Brain," in Alcohol and Aging (T. Beresford and E.S.L. Gomberg, eds., Oxford University Press, 150-165, 1995)

    With D.V. Madison, "Phorbol Esters Enhance Synaptic Transmission in the Hippocampus by a presynaptic, Calcium-dependent Mechanism," Journal of Physiology, 471, 245-268, 1993

  • Education


    University of Colorado Health Sciences Center

    Bachelor of Science
    Cornell University

    Recent Courses Taught

    Neurobiology with Lab

    Independent Research in Neuroscience


    Senior Experimental Thesis in Neuroscience

    Senior Library Thesis in Neuroscience

    Senior Seminar: Advanced Topics in Neuroscience

  • Awards & Honors

    Awards & Honors

    President, Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience, 2000-2001

    Pomona College, Faculty Research Grant, 1998

    National Institute of Aging, Academic Research Enhancement Award, 1998

    National Science Foundation, Instrumentation and Laboratory Improvement Grant, 1995

    American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR), Research Grant, 1995

    National Research Service Award, National Institute of Mental Health, 1991

    Professional Development Network Grant, 2017, 2018

    Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience Equipment Loan Grant, 2016

    Hirsch Initiation Grant, 2003, 2009

    Mellon Partnership Grant, 2009

    Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (FUN) Service Award, 2011

    Pomona College Faculty Grant, 2014, 2018