My Saturday With Rats
Hey there anonymous reader,
Today's Saturday, and while all my friends are sleeping in or watching Saturday morning cartoons (or something of that nature), I'm hanging out in the lab. In fact, this is one of about five Saturdays I've spent in the lab during the summer. Why? There are certain experiments which have to be carried out over a series of consecutive days for them to be considered valid. I guess science doesn't have "business days."
Saturday lab selfie, no shame.
What am I doing today? Good question, anonymous reader! Today I'm on the third day of a conditioning experiment (which I mentioned in my last blog post), continuing my study of testing the motivational effects of nicotine on different strains of rats. I'm also testing a new procedure with a pilot group of rats to see if it would be worthwhile for our lab to pursue further.
What even is conditioning, doe? Cool your jets, anonymous reader, and I'll tell you. Fun fact: I've decided to start using the phrase "cool your jets" more often in everyday speak, what do you think? Anyway, conditioning is the middle step of the conditioned place preference (CPP) paradigm which I've been working with for most of the summer. CPP is basically a form of Pavlovian conditioning which pairs a previously neutral environment with a stimulus (which could be either pleasant or aversive) to eventually create a conditioned response in which the environment itself creates the response.
Here's an example: Say you drink a big glass of water every day before you leave the office. Right when you get through your front door of your home and take off your shoes, you go to the bathroom and pee. You do this every day for a while, and it sort of becomes a routine. One day, you don't have a glass of water before leaving work. When you walk through the door at home and take off your shoes, you still feel the sensation as though you have to pee even though you didn't drink anything. Your brain has associated the environmental stimulus of your doorway with the sensation of having to pee - you've been conditioned. There are some really cool studies which demonstrate this change in neural pathways to elicit conditioning responses in the brain. Ask me about them.
For the rats, I use visual cues (either the dark or light side of a box) and pair them with a stimulus (nicotine) to see if it will elicit a behavioral response. I use software to track their movement and see how it has changed from a baseline. One of the things I'm studying is how my ADHD rat models change behavior in response to nicotine compared to my control "normal" rats.
How are you spending your Saturday, anonymous reader. I'm spending mine with my rats, doing something I love.