DATE: June 2019
University of South Dakota | Biology
Jazmine Yaeger, PhD Student

The syringes will be used for intracranial injections of specially designed viral vectors to answer questions related to microcircuits within distinct brain regions.

The syringes are necessary to complete a project aimed at understanding how the orexin system regulates stress-induced behaviors through the basolateral amygdala. Results from these studies will lead to a better understanding of the developmental process behind stress-induced disorders, like anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, obesity, anorexia, and insomnia. The information gathered from these studies will help uncover better and alternative treatments for stress-related disorders. Further, the syringes will be used to teach/train undergraduate students, with interests in medicine and research, how to perform stereotaxic surgeries on pre-clinical rodent models. The skills undergraduates will learn from the experience will help make them competitive for future career opportunities in medicine or research.

The ultimate goal of the project is to dissect the microcircuits involved in the expression of stress-related behaviors. Using infusions of novel viral vectors designed by our lab, we will be able to manipulate distinct brain regions involved in the formation of stress-related behavioral phenotypes. Undergraduate researchers will be introduced to neuroscience and be allowed to learn technical skills, like how to perform stereotaxic surgery and administer intra-cranial infusions.

While many labs explore therapeutic opportunities for stress-related disorders, these researchers tend to focus on how to treat the symptoms that result from chronic stress exposure. Our lab is unique, however, in that we have developed a behavioral model (Stress Alternatives Model) that allows us to observe disorder progression. In this way, we can identify neural changes that result from stress and attempt to reverse the modifications that are witnessed. In this way, we focus on treatment opportunities that don't merely address the symptoms, but, instead, attempt to rehabilitate changes in the stress-induced mechanics. Further, we exploring a system that is largely unexplored (orexin) with respect to stress-related impairments. Our lab also has a unique opportunity to teach undergraduate students, as the University of South Dakota houses a medical school as well as a medical biology major for undergraduates. The Summers' Lab welcomes a number of undergraduate researchers each year that learn technical skills, partake in research opportunities, present research findings at both local and international conferences, and share authorship on published manuscripts.

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