The Mizumori lab is proud of 3 of our undergraduate students who will be presenting their respective work at the 2013 Mary Gates Undergraduate Research Symposium. Nile Graddis, Jenna Shrewsbury and Meilin Richards will be presenting their hard work at the poster presentation session. Good luck and have fun to you all, you have worked extremely hard and the results reflect this. Congratulations to you all.
Rats Bred as High Alcohol Drinkers Increasingly Utilize Response-Based Strategies on a Plus Maze Task when Compared to Low Alcohol Drinkers
Does a genetic predisposition towards excessive alcohol consumption influence the acquisition of habits? The study of alcohol dependency and its effects on learning and behavior continues to be a subject of growing importance. With an animal model of alcoholism, we sought to uncover some of these potential behavioral consequences. We focused on the development of both flexible and habitual spatial behaviors in rats selectively bred for High Alcohol Drinking (HAD) and Low Alcohol Drinking (LAD). Using a standard plus-maze task, rats were trained to run to an unchanging reward arm. We hypothesized that HAD rats would rely more on response learning strategies than spatial strategies, and would develop a habit more quickly than LAD rats. Initially, visual cues were placed around the room, and two probes were conducted to assess the progress of habitual behaviors in each animal. Later, cues were removed and one last probe was conducted. Preliminary data analysis revealed some unexpected findings, the most striking of which was seen in the LAD rats’ behavior. We expected both groups of animals to form a habitual response by the end of testing, however the percentage of LAD rats using spatial strategies increased with each successive probe. HAD rats, on the other hand, did appear to increasingly rely on response strategies over time, suggesting that they may be more prone towards developing a habitual behavior under these conditions. Additionally, a large number of HAD rats consistently omitted trials and demonstrated increased latencies when compared to LAD rats, possibly indicating that receiving a reward was not enough of an incentive to run the task. These preliminary findings may suggest that genetic preferences for alcohol consumption could influence the learning strategies employed in solving simple behavioral tasks.