Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Noah Cryns L&S Sciences

Exploring Dispersal and Dopamine to Inform Adolescent Neurobiology from an Ethological Perspective

Adolescence is a time of increased risk taking, novelty seeking, and exploration. These behaviors may have an adaptive function to facilitate dispersal from the natal nest but may also have relevance to addiction and morbidity in adolescence. Dopamine(DA) in the striatum is a likely candidate mediating such behavioral changes. However, studies investigating dopamine systems have often focused on adult mice and consummatory behavior. My goal is to design a study to better isolate the role of dopamine in adolescent dispersal behavior. To do this I will study exploratory locomotion in large spaces in wild derived mice and measure dopamine using new imaging technologies. My study will inform adolescent neurobiology from a more ethological perspective, with the goal of explaining how dopamine release changes in the striatum during development and how changes in dopamine neurobiology may be related to the emergence of dispersal behavior. The questions I will pursue include:1.When does dispersal occur in Mus spicilegus, a wild derived mouse? 2.When can we observe individual variation in dispersal? 3.Is an increase in striatal DA release (in any subregion) driving the emergence of dispersal behavior?

Message To Sponsor

I am very grateful for the opportunity to immerse myself in research over the summer that the Pergo Fund has afforded me. The SURF program has been invaluable in helping me further refine my interests and career path. The experience has instilled a greater confidence in me to work independently, something that I am sure will serve me in future professional as well as personal pursuits. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the privilege of conducting research probing interesting naturalistic behaviors and their physiological correlates, I am still very unclear on what my next steps will be. SURF, however, has provided a structure which has forced me to reflect and ask myself important questions about what is next. Thank you SURF program, for having the faith in undergraduate students and providing us with such a unique and valuable experience.
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Major: Neurobiology
Mentor: Linda Wilbrecht
Sponsor: Pergo Fund
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