The primary goal of the behavioral neuroscience lab is to understand the lifelong interplay between brain and behavior. We strive to learn more about this provocative relationship by designing and conducting studies that are rooted in the following kinds of questions:
What are the underlying neural systems and mechanisms that support behavioral change?
What impact do behavior and experiences have on neural structure and function?
And our favorite: Do the answers to these questions change depending on biological sex, age, or past experiences, good or bad?
Choline Neuroprotection Against Psychopathology
One focus in the lab is on how dietary choline intake at different stages over the lifespan mediates cognition, anxiety, stress reactivity, and neural function and plasticity. We are excited to report that choline may have a robustantidepressant effect and are also examining whether it could alter outcomes in rat models of schizophrenia and addiction. We are also thrilled to have the chance to work with rat knockout models in our search for the genomic and epigenomic bases of choline’s actions. This research was funded by Maine’s INBRE 2010-2015.
New Methods to Induce Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
Another focus in the lab is on the induction of mild traumatic brain injury in rodents. Unsatisfied with existing models that do not adequately model the injurious event and thus the rotational acceleration of the head that is key to the behavioral and neural symptoms that result, we have designed a new apparatus that places the rodent in motion toward a fixed obstacle. We are working to characterize outcomes in the model and are beginning our first studies with it.
Sex Differences in Brain and Behavior
We are keenly aware of the ways in which male and female rats differ in all our assays and continue to investigate the extent to which our manipulations, particularly early nutrient availability and head injuries, may have differential impacts based on biological sex.