Susan Rapley: PhD Candidate measuring memory by deep diving into C-type Natriuretic Peptide (CNP)

BRNZ_Susan Rapley

Susan Rapley is a PhD Candidate at the University of Canterbury and is supervised by BRNZ Principal Investigator Professor John Dalrymple-Alford, along with Co-Supervisor Professor Eric Espiner.

“My PhD research centres around a naturally occurring brain protein called C-type Natriuretic Peptide (or CNP, for short). CNP seems to be involved with many different functions in the brain. Recent evidence suggests that one of these functions might be modifying the processes that occur in the brain when we form memories (broadly called neuroplasticity). Specifically, my research has looked at whether we can measure naturally occurring CNP in relation to various memory related circumstances, and also at what effect administering CNP might have on forms of memory that have not been investigated previously,” Susan explains.

Susan has always been interested in biological sciences. As an undergraduate she completed a BSc in genetics and took some papers in psychology. However she soon discovered that her strengths lay more in psychology and was happy to combine her love of the two disciplines and study biological psychology – how processes in the brain influence and are influenced by our behaviour.

While looking for a Master thesis topic she gained guidance from Professor John Dalrymple-Alford and co-supervisor Professor Eric Espiner who were in the nascent stages of a project associated with CNP. A relatively small body of previous research exists in this area and this proved to be huge motivating factor for Susan.

“The most exciting part of research into CNP and the brain, is that it’s still a relatively new area.  Many questions still need asking and answering. I also love that almost every day I get to do something different, or find out something new.

“I have had the chance to collaborate with many different, interesting and talented people working in all sorts of research related positions, and I think I have enjoyed this part the most,” Susan explains.

Looking down the long lens into the future, she shares the same hopes with other neuroscientists working on treatments and interventions. “I hope that we can start identifying some better treatments for some of the massively debilitating neurological disorders out there,” she explains.