Undergraduate Research Highlights
Undergraduate Research Highlights
Neuroscience Faculty and Undergraduates are having FUN at
The College of Charleston
- Bradley King & Dr. Michael Ruscio, Department of Psychology and Program in Neuroscience
Bradley King has been a member of Dr. Michael Ruscio’s Behavioral Neuroendocrinology lab at the College of Charleston lab for the past two years. His research in the lab has focused on quantifying rates of neurogenesis as they relate to adult social isolation in a highly social, biparental and monogamous rodent, the California mouse (Peromyscus californicus). His results demonstrate that the duration and timing of isolation are critical regarding its effects on neurogenesis. Although somewhat nuanced, the general patterns of his findings have shown that short term isolation can cause an increase in neurogenesis, but that this increase is not sustained with longer period of isolation (lasting several weeks). Patterns of neurogenesis are similar across both sexes, but appear more prominent in males. Bradley is also considering how these changes in neurogenesis are potentially modulated by estrogenic activity, by quantifying co-localization of estrogen receptor alpha (ERa) within newly born cells. Throughout his undergraduate career Bradley has received several accolades including a travel award from the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience to present his work at SfN 2012. He has also received research grants from the College of Charleston including a Summer Undergraduate Research with Faculty (SURF) grant in 2012. He will graduate magna cum laude this spring 2013 with a psychology major and neuroscience minor. Fall 2013 he will begin his graduate work in the Psychology/ Biobehavioral Psychology program at the University of Vermont with Dr. S.E. Hammack.
- Robert Raidt, Steven Dix & Dr. Sorinel Oprisan, Department of Physics and Program in Neuroscience
The Neuroscience Program at the College of Charleston also created new opportunities for undergraduates from Physics, Mathematics, and Computer Science/Discovery Informatics programs in the subfield of computational neuroscience (CNS). One research project, which is funded by a NSF-Career award to Dr. S.A. Oprisan, uses input-output characteristics of neural oscillators (called phase resetting curves) to predict numerically the behavior of large neural. Mathematically, we are searching for combinations of network couplings and external stimuli that force the network to switch between different stable firing patterns. For example, the same central pattern generator that controls the gait can switch between walking, running, and hopping. What makes one gait unstable and triggers the switch to another firing pattern of the neurons? How is the mutual resetting among interconnected neurons responsible for selecting a certain behavior? What triggers a sudden synchronization among neurons during epileptic seizures and how can we disrupt such synchronous states until they lose their stability and terminate the seizure? Robert Raidt was one of the undergraduates who worked on this project and presented his results at local professional meetings (Neuropalooza), state (South Carolina Academy of Sciences - SCAS) and national/international (the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and at the annual meeting of the Organization for Computational Neuroscience). For his contribution, Robert received the Outstanding Undergraduate Research award from SCAS and the American Association for the Advancement of Science Award to the Outstanding Male Undergraduate Scientist, and he was invited to publish his original results in the Journal of SCAS (January, 2013). Robert will start his medical studies at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in the fall of 2013. Another ongoing research project with the Neuroscience Institute at the Medical University of South Carolina uses a computer model of the cortico-striato-thalamic network involved in interval timing in an attempt to explain behavioral data. A computer science major – Steven Dix – worked on implementing some aspects of the neural network and carried out numerical simulations. He showed that distracters (such as noises) presented while subjects perform interval timing tasks could disrupt timing and force the subjects to start over, which is called behavioral reset. Steven found that strong inhibitions of prefrontal cortex oscillators that could occur during the presentation of distracters paired with post-inhibitory rebound explain the cell- and network-level mechanisms involved in behavioral reset. His results are under review in the peer-reviewed journal Behavioral Processes.