DATE: April 2017
Boston College | Neuroscience
Michael McDannald

Work by a particularly bright undergraduate student in the Behavioral Neuroscience laboratory at Boston College used a Hamilton syringe to produce neurotoxic lesions – a procedure that has long been performed by Assistant professor Michael McDannald and his laboratory. The problem with the neurotoxic lesion approach is that amygdala function is impaired for the rest of time following surgery. Thus, we cannot be certain that amygdala activity at the time of alcohol drinking is necessary.

In her Honor’s Thesis, undergraduate Elizabeth Mangone is going to use a new neural inactivation method – DREADDS – to turn ’off’ the amygdala for only a few hours at a time. In the DREADDS method, a virus containing a designer drug activated receptor is infused specifically into the amygdala. Following recovery, the amygdala can then be turned ’off’ by bodily injection of the designer drug. If successful, Elizabeth would be the first to show that amygdala activity is necessary for alcohol drinking at the time of drinking.

In order to achieve specific virus infusions into the amygdala, an extremely accurate syringe is required. In our labs experience, only Hamilton syringes can provide this accuracy. However, in our lab each syringe is dedicated to a particular neurotoxin or virus. Because DREADDs have never been employed in the lab, Elizabeth’s project would enormously benefit from dedicated Hamilton syringes. Receipt of this grant would provide Elizabeth with a tremendous opportunity to perform cutting-edge research, make a novel contribution to the neural basis of alcohol drinking and graduate with Honors.

Boston College has a very research active Behavioral Neuroscience group and nearly every lab is or is beginning to employ advanced viral techniques for manipulation of neural circuits.

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