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Psychological Science
2021 Project Proposal

Visualization of a generalized memory trace in the brain

Hadley Bergstrom (Psychological Science)

Project Type - C - In-person-only: It will be cancelled if we are not allowed to have URSI students come to campus this summer.

Generalization represents the transfer of conditioned responding to stimuli that perceptually resemble the original conditioned stimulus. Despite the immense theoretical importance of generalization in the field of psychology, the nature and site of formation and storage of generalization in the brain is poorly defined. One way to study the physical representation of memory in the brain (i.e., the engram) is through genetic “tagging” technology. Genetic tagging allows for the identification and tracking of groups of neurons in the brain over time in a genetically modified mouse model. Recently, we began a transgenic breeding program to produce mice that express a Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) reporter that is restricted to functionally defined (Arc/arg3.1) populations of neurons in the brain (ArcCreERT2). These mice permit indelible genetic access to functionally defined neurons, for the lifetime of the organism. The goal of this URSI project is to conduct a “proof-of-principle” series of experiments to verify the use of ArcCreERT2 x EYFP transgenic mice to visualize neurons activated in response to a conditioned stimulus, and under experimental conditions that promote generalization (the passage of time). In this way, we will have the opportunity to identify and directly compare the underlying neuronal ensemble structure of a cued and generalized aversive memory trace.

Prerequisites: The URSI project requires interest/experience in psychological science and/or neuroscience. Courses in Introduction to Neuroscience & Behavior (Neuro 105), Research Methods in Physiological Psychology (Psyc 249), and Principles of Physiological Psychology (Psyc 241) are desirable, but not required. Basic animal handling skills, chemistry lab skills, and data analytic skills are also highly desirable. The project will involve working with a team that will include fellow URSI students and faculty. See the Memory Neuroscience Lab website for more information about our research.

How should students express interest in this project?  Dr. Bergstrom will evaluate all applications and reach out to students. Please do not contact Dr. Bergstrom with interest.

This is an 8-week project running from June 7 – July 31