Research & Faculty

Summer Research Fellowship Program

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Anatomy & Neurobiology Opportunities

Lisa Cooper, Ph.D.

Embryonic signaling in the development of the tail fluke the beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas)

A summer student fellow will be expected to analyze micro-CT scans of embryos using Avizo software, as well as perform immunohistochemical assays at the bench using our standardized protocols. The fellow will first reconstruct development of the bony elements of the tail using micro-CT scans and 3-D reconstruction software. Second, the fellow will perform bench-based immunohistochemistry experiments of protein signaling on already sectioned flukes. These data will therefore illustrate a) growth of the skeletal supports of the fluke, and b) spatiotemporal signals associated with outgrowth and patterning of the soft-tissue components of the fluke.

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Rebecca German, Ph.D.

The Effect of Preterm Birth and RLN Damage on Airway Protection and Maturation

We have created an animal model to measure the coordination between respiration and swallowing in infants, and test the impact (1) of prematurity, (2) RLN sensory damage, and (3) the recovery and maturation over time of that coordination. We will be collecting several modalities of data (outlined below), each of which needs to be independently analyzed, and ultimately integrated into a larger picture. A trainee will participate in all aspects of data collection over the summer; but will design and carryout a project that will include hypothesis formulation and testing for a portion of these data. This strategy has been successful with numerous trainees.

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Jeffrey Mellott, Ph.D.

Neurotransmitter Changes in the Auditory System during
Age-Related Hearing Loss

The student will determine IC circuits that lose inhibitory input during aging.

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Dana Peterson, Ph.D.

Histology Across the Human Lifespan: A Photographic Atlas Project

Students will be trained in all phases of tissue processing, paraffin-embedding, sectioning and tissue staining. Students will also be trained to operate the automated slide-scanning system that creates digital images from the prepared tissue slides. Students will learn to utilize the proprietary cell quantification software modules to determine changes in cell numbers and cell types in the analyzed tissue samples across all age and weight categories for organs of the reproductive systems, accessory GI organs and integumentary system. The primary goal for the summer of 2019 is to process approx. 1,000 autopsied tissue samples.

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Merri Rosen, Ph.D.

The effects of early-life stress on perception of vocalizations: 1) Categorical Perception, and 2) Natural Preferences

The overall research question that the students’ work will address is whether early life stress, alone or in conjunction with early hearing loss, induces perceptual deficits for conspecific vocalizations.

The goals of this summer project are as follows:

  • The students will become familiar with the background related to this project. This includes literature regarding 1) the development of auditory perception in humans and animals, and 2) perception of vocalizations and natural sounds.
  • The students will learn animal handling techniques so as to perform behavioral testing with minimal distress to the animals. They will test animals using a radial arm maze, and/or to train and test animals using behavioral operant conditioning approaches. These tasks require keen observational skills and a learned intuition for interpreting and responding to animal behavior during testing conditions.
  • The students will learn methods for analyzing behavioral data, and how to compare results from within individual animals, across individuals, and across groups.

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Sharad Shanbhag, Ph.D.

Brain Circuitry Underlying Hearing and Emotions

Our long-term goal is to improve the understanding of neural mechanisms that underlie acoustic communication. This summer project aims to identify and quantify the mechanisms of vocalization-selective responses. We hypothesize that discrimination and selectivity in response to social vocalizations arises from projections of secondary auditory cortical areas. We further hypothesize that inputs from the prefrontal cortex, ventral tegmental area and hippocampus underlie contextual modulation of auditory responses.

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Jeffrey Wenstrup, Ph.D.

Analyzing Vocalizations, Behaviors and Neurochemistry Underlying Emotional Communications

Our long-term goal is to improve the understanding of neural mechanisms that underlie acoustic communication. The specific aims of the project are: (1) to identify cues that are used by mice to reflect their internal state in their vocalizations, (2) to see how male and female mice respond to playback of these vocalizations and whether they differentially change their behavior and internal affective state based on the valence of these vocalizations, and (3) to identify and quantify the neurochemicals responsible for these behavioral reactions within the amygdala. We hypothesize that mice use both temporal and spectral cues in vocalizations to reflect their state changes. We further hypothesize that these cues are being perceived in a distinct way by male and female mice. Finally, we hypothesize that the pattern of the release of neuromodulators within the amygdala is correlated with the behavioral reactions in male and female mice in response to these vocalizations. This work will provide guidance for future studies that investigate the origin of social vocalization selectivity in the basolateral amygdala.

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Jesse Young, Ph.D.

Biomechanics of Locomotor Development in a Preterm Animal Model Principle

The overarching goal of this research is to use standard kinesiological techniques to characterize the locomotor biomechanics of preterm infant pigs. Locomotor data will be compared to standardized data from full-term pig infants to quantify 1) the degree to which motor development is delayed in the preterm infants and 2) what physiological and biomechanical factors best explain this delay. Specific goals include: 1) using high speed video to quantify developmental changes in spatiotemporal kinematics (e.g., locomotor speed, interlimb coordination), 2) using three-dimensional photogrammetric data from the video recordings to quantify developmental changes in limb posture, 3) using specially constructed small animal force plates to quantify developmental changes in balance and muscle force production, and 4) using synchronized electromyography (EMG) to quantify developmental changes in muscle coordination.

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Nona Hose
Phone: 330.325.6499