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  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only.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.

My research on Fragile-X syndrome. By Daryn Carp ’10

Over the past year, Daryn Carp ’10 (Montclair, N.J.), a psychology major, has worked as an EXCEL scholar with Lisa Gabel, assistant professor of psychology, testing the memory capabilities of female mice. Carp and Gabel’s work focuses on Fragile-X syndrome, the most common form of inheritable mental retardation, and how the syndrome in mice could be represented in the form of human mental retardation.

When I first became an Excel scholar, Dr. Gabel told me that I was going to be working with mice. I was new to the idea of testing mice and what the results were going to be, but I guess that is the important part of being an experimenter. My area of general research last semester, as well as this semester, involves the use of female Fragile-X mice. Fragile-X is the most common form of inheritable mental retardation.

My research is specifically concerned with the deficits associated with the loss of a gene that produces the FMRP protein, which is missing in patients with Fragile-X mental retardation. We are not necessarily concerned with the extent of the developmental delay, or memory impairments associated with the loss. The interest here is how the missing protein is represented in humans, which would prove extremely beneficial to further research. Our ultimate concern is with the role of the FMRP protein since its loss leads to severe mental impairments.

This past semester the experiment consisted of a novel object recognition task with the use of 20 female mice. Ten of the mice had Fragile-X and the other 10 were normal. The basic concept with this task was to test if environmental enrichment had an effect on the memory of a mouse, Fragile-X or not, in recognizing objects that they had seen previously and to which they were supposedly accustomed. The environments consisted of an impoverished environment and an enriched environment. The enriched environment included colorful toys, a wheel and various hiding places, both a visually and physically stimulating environment. The impoverished environment consisted of food and water. There was no extra stimulation in this environment, just the basic necessities.

We were able to introduce the novel objects to the mice and gave them 10 minutes to habituate to each object. We tested the mice at 30 minutes, 1 hour, 4 hours, and 24 hours after the first introduction of the novel object. We operationalized the mouse’s memory to the object if the mouse spent a significantly less amount of time examining the original object than the new object. We tested the mouse’s visual memory. Our hopes were to find that the enriched environment would provide for more memory traces, and the mouse would be more capable of remembering the novel object compared to those mice in the impoverished environment. At the same time, we predicted that the non-Fragile-X mice would have a better memory than the Fragile-X mice. The results showed our hypothesis to be accurate; however there was some slight variation.

This semester I have another experiment that I am beginning to conduct that involves testing the same mice as last semester but using a new apparatus called the 8-arm radial maze. This maze is designed to test reference and working memory as opposed to visual memory. The mouse will hopefully be able to recall where the treat (chocolate sprinkles) is located. The sprinkles will be strategically placed in only four of the arms. Some of the arms have visual cues in order for the mouse to orient itself in the maze. I am hoping for some extremely conclusive results and am looking forward to testing the mice.

Carp’s future plans include attending broadcasting school and working for a network. This summer, she plans to intern at CNBC in New York City.

Lafayette’s focus on close student-faculty interaction has made it a national leader in undergraduate research. Many of the hundreds of students who participate in the honors, independent study, and EXCEL Scholars programs each year publish their work in academic journals and present at regional and national conferences.

  • Psychology
  • Undergraduate Research
Categorized in: Academic News, Faculty and Staff, News and Features, Student Profiles, Students
Tagged with: , , , ,