Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

Five neuroscience majors conducted cutting-edge research this summer with leaders in their field through the Lafayette Alumni Research Network (LEARN).

Daniel Haddad ’06 (Colorado Springs, Co.), Holly Feret ’05(Parlin, N.J.),Jaime Abbazia ’05 (North Babylon, N.Y.), Ashlee Snyder ’05 (Gilbertsville, Pa.)and Evan Grolley ’05 (Niskayuna, N.Y.) were paid for eight to ten weeks of fulltime work through LEARN. Travel to their mentor’s institution and room expenses also were covered through the program, which was established in 2002 in part through a grant from the McCutcheon Foundation.

Haddad was mentored by James Simmons ’65, professor of neuroscience at Brown University, who studies the biological sonar, or echolocation, of bats as an auditory imaging system. The research is used to learn how bats process echoes of their ultrasonic sounds to perceive the location and identity of the flying insects they prey upon.

Haddad and Simmons focused on a recently discovered swarming behavior of bats.

“We investigated why different species of bats are swarming together—whether it makes it easier to feed or drink, or whether it is a more complex social behavior,” says Haddad.

Feret conducted research with Peter Donovick ’61, professor of psychology at University of New York-Binghamton, who studies the cognitive and behavioral factors associated with traumatic brain injury, chronic disease, and mental illness.

While Feret was involved with several studies, including one on facial recognition, her main project involved using archival data collected from prisoners and hospital patients to analyze the relationships among age, education, and I.Q. on tests of cognitive and motor processing speed.

“Working in the neuropsychology lab with Dr. Donovick has led me to consider possibly pursuing a career in the field, an area that I was previously unaware of,” Feret says. “Overall, participating in the LEARN program was a really good experience.”

Abbazia’s research was guided by Lisa Schrott ’85, assistant pharmacology professor at Louisiana State University’s Health Science Center, whose major research interests include behavioral, endocrine, and immune consequences of prenatal drug exposure, the role of neurotrophic factors (proteins responsible for the growth and survival of neurons) and cytokines (small, secreted proteins that mediate and regulate immunity and inflammation) in brain development and behavior, and immune system influences on behavior.

Abbazia helped to design and pilot test a task known as “conditioned place aversion.” In this test, a new environment is paired with the experience of undergoing withdrawal from opiates such as heroine or morphine.

“We determined how aversive the experience was for the rat by examining how much time it subsequently spent in that environment in the future,” Schrott says. “The advantage of this task over other similar tests is that we found we could measure the effects for at least two weeks after they underwent opiate withdrawal—long after the physical signs of withdrawal had ended.”

Such information is important for understanding why craving for a drug and relapse can occur long after a person has stopped using the drug.

Snyder and Grolley were mentored by Jay Weiss ’63, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, who studies the neurochemical basis of mental illness by using animal models and examines the relationship between stress and the immune response.

Grolley studied animals with characteristics associated with bipolar disorder and compared them with animals without such characteristics. He sought to characterize brain activity by looking at a protein that gets expressed in activated neurons.

For Snyder’s research, she combined two separate tests to see if the results on one test affected those of the second. The first test, the Porsolt swim test, is used to determine a rat’s inclination for activity when placed in water. The second, the Morris water maze, tests a rat’s ability to learn the location of a hidden platform when placed in water.

“Our research was to determine if the behavioral differences seen in the Porsolt swim test would influence learning ability in the Morris water maze,” Snyder explains.

After a total of 32 trials over the course of four days, Snyder concluded that when “escape time” is used to judge how well the rats learned in the Morris water maze, there is no difference in learning ability between any of the three rat lines.

Categorized in: Academic News