During my sophomore year, when major courses begin to take over the course load, I began to develop a passion for neuroscience. When I heard that my professor at the time and current mentor was beginning a research project concerning the effects of excess zinc and copper deficiency on a late-onset mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, I quickly inquired more and soon was recruited to join her team. Initially, I had minimal involvement in the research process, with my major responsibility being handling the mice to decrease stress during testing. Over the summer, I began to assist in behavioral testing and to take more initiative in the project. After a year of being around the research, I was honored to be offered a Students as Scholars research position allowing me to hone in on a specific piece of the project: The effects of excess zinc and copper deficiency on social behavior in mouse model of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
On a weekly basis I am either assisting with behavioral testing, handling mice, analyzing recorded videos of testing, analyzing data, or a combination of these. The six-month data included analysis of over 300 hours of video after testing was complete, and results showed no significant difference between the wild-type and ApoE4 mice in social recognition or social preference. These results coincide with hypotheses that the ApoE4 allele of the APOE gene may be protective early on. With further research still underway, evidence suggests that the metal interactions do not cause a significant deficit in social behavior early on in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, but could present a larger differential in the later stages. Age effects will be evaluated by comparing the results of the same tests performed at 1 year of age which will conclude in early November. The final results will be presented at the 2016 Society for Neuroscience meeting held in San Diego in November.
Gaining experience in research and discovering a passion is extremely crucial to attaining my future goals. With plans of entering the medical field, the research I am doing in the neuroscience department has contributed to my recent employment as a clinical research assistant at a hospital near my hometown. Having the opportunity to apply what I learn in my neuroscience classes to something practical is something else that I find beneficial as well. There is a lot of work yet to go, but I am proud of where the project stands so far.