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The temporal organization of operant behavior: a response bout analysis

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Many behaviors are organized into bouts – brief periods of responding punctuated by pauses. This dissertation examines the operant bouts of the lever pressing rat. Chapter 1 provides a brief history of operant response bout analyses. Chapters 2, 3, 5,

Many behaviors are organized into bouts – brief periods of responding punctuated by pauses. This dissertation examines the operant bouts of the lever pressing rat. Chapter 1 provides a brief history of operant response bout analyses. Chapters 2, 3, 5, and 6 develop new probabilistic models to identify changes in response bout parameters. The parameters of those models are demonstrated to be uniquely sensitive to different experimental manipulations, such as food deprivation (Chapters 2 and 4), response requirements (Chapters 2, 4, and 5), and reinforcer availability (Chapters 2 and 3). Chapter 6 reveals the response bout parameters that underlie the operant hyperactivity of a common rodent model of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR). Chapter 6 then ameliorates the SHR’s operant hyperactivity using training procedures developed from findings in Chapters 2 and 4. Collectively, this dissertation provides new tools for the assessment of response bouts and demonstrates their utility for discerning differences between experimental preparations and animal strains that may be otherwise indistinguishable with more primitive methods.

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2015

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The role of nucleus accumbens NMDA receptors on rapid, transient synaptic plasticity induced by cued nicotine reinstatement

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Nicotine use is an outstanding public health problem with associated social and economic consequences. Nicotine is an active alkaloid compound in tobacco and is recognized as a psychoactive drug. Preclinically, nicotine addiction and relapse can be modeled using a self-administration-reinstatement

Nicotine use is an outstanding public health problem with associated social and economic consequences. Nicotine is an active alkaloid compound in tobacco and is recognized as a psychoactive drug. Preclinically, nicotine addiction and relapse can be modeled using a self-administration-reinstatement paradigm. Here, we used a nicotine self-administration and contingent cue-induced reinstatement model to examine rapid, transient synaptic plasticity (t-SP) induced by nicotine cue-triggered motivation. Although preliminary, treatment with the NMDA GluN2B subunit antagonist, ifenprodil, reduced reinstated nicotine seeking, and increased the percentage of spines with smaller head diameters. Thus, future studies are needed to fully parse out the role of NAcore GluN2B receptors in cued nicotine seeking and t-SP.

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2017-05

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Neuromodulation of olfactory learning by serotonergic signaling at glomerular synapses reveals a peripheral sensory gating mechanism

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Sensory gating is a process by which the nervous system preferentially admits stimuli that are important for the organism while filtering out those that may be meaningless. An optimal sensory gate cannot be static or inflexible, but rather plastic and

Sensory gating is a process by which the nervous system preferentially admits stimuli that are important for the organism while filtering out those that may be meaningless. An optimal sensory gate cannot be static or inflexible, but rather plastic and informed by past experiences. Learning enables sensory gates to recognize stimuli that are emotionally salient and potentially predictive of positive or negative outcomes essential to survival. Olfaction is the only sensory modality in mammals where sensory inputs bypass conventional thalamic gating before entering higher emotional or cognitive brain regions. Thus, olfactory bulb circuits may have a heavier burden of sensory gating compared to other primary sensory circuits. How do the primary synapses in an olfactory system "learn"' in order to optimally gate or filter sensory stimuli? I hypothesize that centrifugal neuromodulator serotonin serves as a signaling mechanism by which primary olfactory circuits can experience learning informed sensory gating. To test my hypothesis, I conditioned genetically-modified mice using reward or fear olfactory-cued learning paradigms and used pharmacological, electrophysiological, immunohistochemical, and optical imaging approaches to assay changes in serotonin signaling or functional changes in primary olfactory circuits. My results indicate serotonin is a key mediator in the acquisition of olfactory fear memories through the activation of its type 2A receptors in the olfactory bulb. Functionally within the first synaptic relay of olfactory glomeruli, serotonin type 2A receptor activation decreases excitatory glutamatergic drive of olfactory sensory neurons through both presynaptic and postsynaptic mechanisms. I propose that serotonergic signaling decreases excitatory drive, thereby disconnecting olfactory sensory neurons from odor responses once information is learned and its behavioral significance is consolidated. I found that learning induced chronic changes in the density of serotonin fibers and receptors, which persisted in glomeruli encoding the conditioning odor. Such persistent changes could represent a sensory gate stabilized by memory. I hypothesize this ensures that the glomerulus encoding meaningful odors are much more sensitive to future serotonin signaling as such arousal cues arrive from centrifugal pathways originating in the dorsal raphe nucleus. The results advocate that a simple associative memory trace can be formed at primary sensory synapses to facilitate optimal sensory gating in mammalian olfaction.

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2012

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The role of the biogenic amine tyramine in latent inhibition learning in the honey bee, Apis mellifera

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Animals must learn to ignore stimuli that are irrelevant to survival, which is a process referred to as ‘latent inhibition’. This process has been shown to be genetically heritable (Latshaw JS, Mazade R, Sinakevitch I, Mustard JA, Gadau J, Smith

Animals must learn to ignore stimuli that are irrelevant to survival, which is a process referred to as ‘latent inhibition’. This process has been shown to be genetically heritable (Latshaw JS, Mazade R, Sinakevitch I, Mustard JA, Gadau J, Smith BH (submitted)). The locus containing the AmTYR1 gene has been shown through quantitative trait loci mapping to be linked to strong latent inhibition in honey bees. The Smith lab has been able to show a correlation between learning and the AmTYR1 receptor gene through pharmacological inhibition of the receptor. In order to further confirm this finding, experiments were designed to test how honey bees learn with this receptor knocked out. Here this G-protein coupled receptor for the biogenic amine tyramine is implemented as an important factor underlying latent inhibition in honey bees. It is shown that double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) and Dicer-substrate small interfering RNA (dsiRNA) that are targeted to disrupt the tyramine receptors specifically affects latent inhibition but not excitatory associative conditioning. The results therefore identify a distinct reinforcement pathway for latent inhibition in insects.

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2017