The Role of Acetylcholine and Dopamine in Perception and Working Memory

Visual working memory is a limited, short-term mental storage system that holds task-relevant visual information in mind and is important for visually guided behavior. Recent studies have suggested that visual working memory is closely linked to visual perception, implemented in overlapping brain regions and sharing similar brain circuitry. Ahmad’s research project will investigate the effects of the neurotransmitters acetylcholine and dopamine, which are known to play important roles in visual perception and in working memory, respectively, by combining pharmacologic manipulation of these neurotransmitters while measuring behavioral performance in a visual working memory task in humans. By testing the role of neurotransmitters known to play a role in modulating perceptual and memory signals, he aims to shed light on the intricate relationship between visual perception and working memory.

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Optogenetic Control in Freely Behaving Bats (Rousettus Aegyptiacus)

How does the brain convert sensory information to help us navigate around space? Spatial learning is what Justin believes to be the key in building the bridge between sensory input and navigation. The striatum, a region of the mammalian brain known to be crucial for spatial learning, will be deeply examined using the methods of optogenetics. In his project, Justin will be building methods to optically control striatal regions of freely behaving bats, and examine the neural circuitry that allows their sophisticated navigation around complex environments to be made possible. Justin’s goal is to make this examination wireless and to record neural activities from the bats in their free conditions. The findings from this project will give insights into how sensory details lead to spatial habit formation.

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Metabolite Production by Interspecies Interactions in Actinomycetes and Root Nodule Bacteria

Actinomycetes, filamentous soil bacteria, have been the single richest source of medicinally relevant natural products, whose applications include anticancer agents, antifungal agents and antibiotics. However, actinomycetes still hold great potential for novel metabolite discovery. This is because the way they are typically grown in the laboratory fails to mimic cues in their natural environments that potentially induce the synthesis of novel metabolites. During this project, Victor will place actinomycetes in ecologically relevant contexts by reintroducing them to bacteria they would naturally encounter, in binary interactions, and subsequently analyze the metabolites produced. In addition, he aims to characterize the microbial community structure in root nodules and analyze their metabolites to discover possible mechanisms of interaction within the nodules. This project will incorporate genomics, analytical chemistry, and ecology towards metabolite discovery.

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Uncoupling Pyroptosis from Cell Lysis

Pyroptosis is a poorly understood mode of cell suicide, one that functions as an alarm bell for the bodys immune system in response to infection. Though beneficial when properly regulated, the rapid immune response triggered by pyroptosis can, itself, produce disease and dysfunction. Pyroptosis has been identified as a possible contributor to cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and some neurodegenerative disorders. Understanding pyroptosis, then, could lead to novel treatments for a variety of human diseases. Unfortunately, despite ten years of research, uncovering how it precisely works has proven to be an elusive task. Lucian will use a novel microscopic imaging system he developed in order to characterize pyroptosis and rigorously test the fields leading hypothesis on how pyroptosis causes cell death.

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