Thursday, November 13, 2014

URSP Student Meghann Smith Researches The Effect of Varying Levels of Copper on Extinction of Learned Fear and Motor Coordination in Rats

My project deals with the effect of varying levels of copper on extinction of learned fear and motor coordination in rats. Behavioral measures will include fear conditioning and extinction in extinction chambers, as well as the accelerating rotarod task which assesses locomotor coordination. The metal content in the brains will be measured with an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry instrument (ICP-MS). This instrument measures trace metal content in the brain. The goal of this project is to examine the effect of long-term exposure to varying copper levels on behavioral outcomes in rats.

I became interested in this project after I started a Research Assistant position in Dr. Flinn’s psychology lab. My main interest of study is physiological psychology, and I knew that I wanted to conduct research in this field at some capacity. I never thought I would be able to do so with a project of my own so early in my college career, so I am appreciative of this opportunity! My future goals include a continuation in the research field of behavioral neuroscience in graduate school.

On a weekly basis, I take part in a strict handling schedule so the rats are exposed to human touch regularly before behavioral testing. Food is measured and weighed based on their distributed experimental diets to monitor intake. This week, I became more familiar with the Cryostat machine which cuts brain tissue to be mounted on histological slides. The product slides will be used in the ICP-MS to identify trace amounts of metals found in the brains.