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Scientists, lawyers, and bioethicists have pondered the impact of scientifically deterministic evidence on a judge or jury when deciding the sentence of a criminal. Though the impact may be one that relieves the amount of personal guilt on the part of the criminal, this evidence may also be the very reason that a judge or jury punishes more strongly, suggesting that this type of evidence may be a double-edged sword. 118 participants were shown three films of fictional sentencing hearings. All three films introduced scientifically deterministic evidence, and participants were asked to recommend a prison sentence. Each hearing portrayed a different criminal with different neurological conditions, a different crime, and a different extent of argumentation during closing arguments about the scientifically deterministic evidence. Though the argumentation from the prosecution and the defense did not affect sentencing, the interaction of type of crime and neurological condition did.
Substance abuse disorders affect 15.3 million people worldwide. The field has primarily focused on dopaminergic drugs as treatments for substance use disorders. However, recent work has demonstrated the potential of serotonergic compounds to treat substance abuse. Specifically, the serotonin 1B receptor (5-HT1BR), a Gi-coupled receptor located throughout the mesocorticolimbic dopamine system, has been implicated in the incentive motivational and rewarding effects of cocaine. Our research suggests that the stimulation of 5-HT1BRs produces different effects at various time points in the addiction cycle. During maintenance of chronic cocaine administration, 5-HT1BR stimulation has a facilitative effect on the reinforcing properties of cocaine. However 5-HT1BR stimulation exhibits inhibitory effects on reinforcement during prolonged abstinence from cocaine. The aim of this study was to examine the possibility of a switch in the functional role of 5-HT1BRs in the locomotor effects of cocaine at different time points of chronic cocaine administration in mice. We found that the 5-HT1BR agonist CP 94,253 increased locomotor activity in mice tested one day after the last chronic cocaine administration session regardless of whether the chronic treatment was cocaine or saline and regardless of challenge injection (i.e., cocaine or saline). Yet after abstinence, CP 94,253 induced a decrease in locomotor activity in mice challenged with saline and attenuated cocaine-induced locomotion relative to cocaine challenge after vehicle pretreatment. These findings suggest that a switch in the functional role of 5-HT1BR is observed at different stages of the addiction cycle and further suggest that clinical applications of drugs acting on 5-HT1BR should consider these effects.
An introduction to neuroscientific thought aimed at an audience that is not educated in biology. Meant to be readable and easily understood by anyone with a high school education. The first section is completed in its entirety, with outlines for the proposed final sections to be completed over the next few years.
Since the collapse of the Medellin Cartel in Colombia in 1993, the Mexican drug cartels have been increasing in strength and international presence. Along with the organization's political and economic involvement, a deeply rooted culture has been developing. Three distinct time periods define this culture: pre-Medellin Cartel collapse (1970s-1993), post-Medellin Cartel Collapse (1993-2006) and post-President Calderon's Drug War announcement (2006-present day). More specifically, the history and fascination with the cartel is documented in songs, known as narcocorridos, which celebrate and support the drug cartels. The science of political sociology addresses the power relationship that exists between a state, its citizens, and the state's social groups. This study investigates the political sociology of each period, specifically how society viewed the cartel and their roles within the cartel. I argue that the narcocorridos accurately describe the evolution of narcoculture in Mexican society. This study consists of analyses of narcocorrido song lyrics, the political sociology of each time period, and finally, the societal perception of the drug cartel. First, I will evaluate the most popular songs' lyrics of the three defining time periods in the Mexican Drug Cartel history. Next, I will analyze the lyrics and determine whether or not they accurately reflect the political sociological features of the time period. Last, I will discuss what the societal perceptions of being associated with the cartel were during each time period. This study concludes by hypothesizing what the future of narcocorriodos will be. This prediction will demonstrate how the songs will continue to reflect the political sociology of the time period, including the societal attitudes towards the cartel.
Females are highly vulnerable to the effects of methamphetamine, and understanding the mechanisms of this is critical to addressing methamphetamine use as a public health issue. Hormones may play a role in methamphetamine sensitivity; thus, the fluctuation of various endogenous peptides during the postpartum experience is of interest. This honors thesis project explored the relation between anxiety-like behavior, as measured by activity in an open field, and conditioned place preference to methamphetamine in female versus male rats. The behavior of postpartum as well as virgin female rats was compared to that of male rats. There was not a significant difference between males and females in conditioned place preference to methamphetamine, yet females showed higher locomotor activity in response to the drug as well as increased anxiety-like behavior in open field testing as compared to males. Further study is vital to comprehending the complex mechanisms of sex differences in methamphetamine addiction.
There is preclinical evidence that the detrimental cognitive effects of hormone loss can be ameliorated by estrogen therapy (Bimonte, Acosta, & Talboom, 2010), however, one of the primary concerns with current hormone therapies is that they are nonselective, leading to increased risk of breast and endometrial cancers as well as heart disease. Thus, in order to achieve a successful and clinically relevant long-term hormone therapy option, it is optimal to find an estrogen therapy regimen that is selective to its target tissue. Recently, phytoestrogens have been found to exert selective, beneficial effects on cognition and brain. For example, genistein and diadzein produce neuroprotective effects in cognitive brain regions (Zhao, Chen, & Diaz Brinton, 2002). The purpose of this study was threefold: 1) to examine the cognitive impact of phytoestrogens in young ovariectomized rats, 2) to replicate the dose effects found in the Luine study (Luine et al., 2006), while controlling for manufacturer differences, and 3) to assess if the rodent diet used in our laboratory has an estrogenic-like cognitive impact.The current findings suggest that, at least for object memory, diets containing varying amounts of phytoestrogens can alter cognition, with diets containing high amounts of phytoestrogens showing potential benefits to this type of memory.
Abstract: Behavioral evidence suggests that joint coordinated movement attunes one's own motor system to the actions of another. This attunement is called a joint body schema (JBS). According to the JBS hypothesis, the attunement arises from heightened mirror neuron sensitivity to the actions of the other person. This study uses EEG mu suppression, an index of mirror neuron system activity, to provide neurophysiological evidence for the JBS hypothesis. After a joint action task in which the experimenter used her left hand, the participant's EEG revealed greater mu suppression (compared to before the task) in her right cerebral hemisphere when watching a left hand movement. This enhanced mu suppression was found regardless of whether the participant was moving or watching the experimenter move. These results are suggestive of super mirror neurons, that is, mirror neurons which are strengthened in sensitivity to another after a joint action task and do not distinguish between whether the individual or the individual's partner is moving.
For my thesis, I conducted a study on a healthy pediatric cohort to investigate how DNA methylation of genes related to myelin may predict total white matter volume in a healthy pediatric cohort. The relatively new field of neuroimaging epigenetics investigates how methylation of genes in peripheral tissue samples is related to certain structural or functional features of the brain, as measured by neuroimaging data. Research has already demonstrated that methylation of genes in peripheral tissues is related to a variety of brain disorders. We hypothesized that methylation of myelin-related genes as measured in saliva samples would predict total white matter volume in a healthy pediatric cohort. After processing DNA methylation data from saliva samples from participants, multiple linear regressions were ran to determine if DNA methylation of myelin related genes was related to total white matter volume, as measured by data from structural MRIs. Results showed that these genes, which included MOG, MBP, and MYRF, significantly predicted total white matter volume. Two genes that were significant in our results have been previously shown to produce proteins that are essential to the structure of myelin.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is an irreversible brain disorder that plagues millions of people with no current cure. Current clinical research is slowly advancing to more definitive treatments in hopes of reducing the effects of progressive cognitive and behavioral decline, but none so far can slow AD’s onset. A brain area known as the nucleus incertus (NI) was recently discovered to potentially impact AD because of its connections to brain targets that degenerate; however, the NI’s role is unknown. This goal of this experiment was to use a transgenic mouse model (APP/PS1) that expresses AD pathology slowly as found in humans, and to test the mice in a variety of cognitive and anxiety assessments. Mice of both sexes and two different ages were used, with the first being young adult before AD pathology manifests (around 3-4 months old), and the second being around the cusp of when AD pathology manifests (late adult, 8-10 months old). The mice were tested in a variety of cognitive tasks that included the novel object recognition (NOR), Morris water maze (MWM), and the object placement (OP), with the latter being the focus of my thesis. Anxiety measures were taken from the open field (OF) and elevated plus maze (EPM) with the visible platform (VP) used to ensure mice could perform on the rigorous MWM task. In the OP, we found an age effect, where the older mice were less likely to explore the moved object during the OP compared to the younger mice; motor ability was unlikely to explain this effect. We did not find any significant age by genotype effects. These findings indicate that cognitive impairment only just started to affect the older cohort, since OP impairment was found on one measure and not another. Other measures currently being quantified will be helpful in understanding this data, and to see whether learning, memory, and anxiety are affected.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a devastating neurodegenerative disease characterized by the deterioration of upper and lower motor neurons in the brain, brain stem, and spinal cord. Multiple missense mutations have been connected to familial ALS, including those in the Matrin-3 protein. Matrin-3 is an RNA and DNA-binding protein encoded by the MATR3 gene. Normally found in the nuclear matrix, Matrin-3 plays several roles vital to RNA metabolism, including splicing, RNA degradation, mRNA transport, mRNA stability, and transcription. Mutations in MATR3 leading to familial ALS include P154S and S85C, but the mechanisms through which these mutations contribute to ALS pathology remain unknown. This makes mouse models particularly useful in elucidating pathology mechanisms, ultimately having the potential to serve as preclinical models for therapeutic drugs. Because of the importance of animal models, we worked to create ALS mouse models for the MATR3 P154S and S85C mutations. We specifically generated two CRISPR/Cas9 mediated knock-in mouse models containing the MATR3 P154S or S85C mutation expressed under the control of the endogenous promoter. Both the homozygous and heterozygous P154S mice developed no physical or motor defects or shortening of lifespan compared to the wildtype mice. They also exhibited no ALS-like pathology in either the muscle or spinal cord up to 24 months. In contrast, the homozygous S85C mice exhibited significant physical and motor differences, including smaller weight, impaired gait, and shortening of lifespan. Some ALS-like pathology was observed in the muscle, but pathology remained limited in the spinal cord of the homozygous mice up to 12 months. In conclusion, our data suggests that the MATR3 P154S mutation alone does not cause ALS in vivo, while the MATR3 S85C mutation induces significant motor deficits, with pathology in the spinal cord potentially beginning at older ages not examined in our study.