Hadley Bergstrom: Psychological Science and Neuroscience & Behavior
Research statement: Our memory is one of our most precious abilities. Memory guides adaptive decision-making, triggers complex emotion, and shapes our conscious experience. A principle endeavor in the field of neuroscience is understanding the nature of memory; how it is constructed, stored, modified, and retrieved. In the Memory Neuroscience lab at Vassar College, we study how memory is organized and retrieved in the brain at the level of molecules, structure, and function. A major emphasis in our lab is the study of aversive (fear) memory and the neurobiological underpinnings of fear memory generalization. Generalization describes the transfer of conditioned responding to stimuli that perceptually resemble, but do not exactly match, the original conditioned stimulus. Generalization is ubiquitous across species, however the neuronal mechanisms remain poorly understood. The study of generalization has high translational relevance considering that both anxiety-related disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are thought to be, at least in part, related to the overgeneralization of memory. To test questions related to fear memory generalization, we apply neuroscience tools for visualizing and manipulating memory processes in the brain. Beckman scholars working in the Memory Neuroscience Lab will gain valuable basic research experience in a variety of advanced behavioral neuroscience tools, including behavioral approaches, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays, mouse colony management, pharmacology, fluorescent immunohistochemistry, fluorescent microscopy, confocal microscopy, adeno-associated viral gene delivery via stereotaxic surgery, chemogenetic techniques, statistical techniques and methodology, graphical representation of data, and scientific writing.
Megan Gall: Biology and Neuroscience & Behavior
Research statement: Current work in the Gall lab is focused on understanding how acoustic anthropogenic noise influences predator-prey relationships. We take a neuroethology approach in the lab, combing behavioral experiments in the field with electrophysiological investigations of auditory processing in wild birds. The successful applicant will spend the first summer learning data analysis and experimental design techniques using data from ongoing experiments on the effects of noise on auditory processing of northern saw-whet owls and behavioral experiments investigating the effects of noise on predator detection and communication in chickadees and allied species. During the school year the applicant will work with other lab members to design and conduct field experiments. They will also conduct electrophysiology experiments with chickadees and allied species to understand how noise influences their auditory processing. The second summer will focus on data analysis and preparing a manuscript.