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Psychological Science
2018 Project Proposal

Modifying the expression of a fear memory engram using a chemogenetic system

Hadley Bergstrom (Psychological Science)

In the Memory Neuroscience Lab, we have demonstrated that chronic exposure to alcohol impacts the extinction and generalization of an established conditioned fear memory. Fear memory extinction and generalization is mediated, in part, by the prefrontal cortex. How alcohol-induced change in the prefrontal cortex contribute to fear memory sensitization and generalization is poorly understood. The purpose of this URSI project is to dissect the relative contribution of alcohol-induced neuroadaptations in the prefrontal cortex to the extinction and generalization of an established fear memory engram. The project will incorporate a chemogenetic system (designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs; DREADDs) to alter cellular activity in the prefrontal cortex during memory retrieval with cell-type specific resolution. The project will require the implantation of a viral vector encoding a designer G-protein-coupled receptor into the brain and systemic delivery of clozapine (Gomez et al., 2017) prior to memory reactivation. It is anticipated that chemogenetic excitation of the prefrontal cortex will reverse alcohol-induced prefrontal cortical hypoactivity and normalize fear memory retrieval. The project involves a combination of a novel social binge alcohol exposure paradigm (“Drinking-in-the-Dark”), behavioral testing (fear conditioning), viral-mediate gene transfer, immunofluorescence, and statistical analysis. Students interested in psychology and neuroscience are encouraged to apply. See the Memory Neuroscience Lab website for more information about the project.       

Prerequisites:  Basic chemical or biological laboratory skills, statistics         

How should students express their interest in this project?  Students chosen for an interview will be contacted directly.