Research

ABOUT
Models of Working and Episodic Memory

Our laboratory has developed novel methods to study working memory capacity and episodic memory in rats using variations of the odor span task.  We’ve used this task to both study the effects of a number of drugs as well as environmental variables on rodent memory. 

ABOUT
Concept Learning

Many psychologists and philosophers have contended that concept learning and symbolic      processes are uniquely human. We are exploring ways to study such complex processes in rats   and have discovered evidence that rats may be far more capable than previously believed.

ABOUT
Extinction:
Relapse, Resurgence, and Renewal

We have developed rat models of relapse and use  them to design improved treatment strategies that reduce resurgence, renewal and other forms of relapse.

See Below for More Info:

Models of Working and Episodic Memory:

Deficits in memory are hallmark features of disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia and there is a need for animal models of memory that can be used to increase our understanding of the biological and behavioral bases for these deficits as well as to aid the development of new treatments.  Our laboratory has developed novel methods to study working memory capacity and episodic memory in rats using variations of the odor span task.  We’ve used this task to both study the effects of a number of drugs as well as environmental variables on rodent memory. 

Ongoing projects include:

 

  • Effects of NMDA receptor antagonists (e.g., ketamine, PCP) on working memory capacity in an animal model of schizophrenia.              

 

  • Effects of potential cognitive enhancers (e.g., methylphenidate—Ritalin) on working memory capacity. We are also assessing whether deficits induced by these drugs can be treated with antipsychotic drugs such as quetiapine (Seroquel).                

 

  • What are the upper limits of working memory for odors? We are assessing how long rats can remember multiple odor stimuli.              

 

  • Do rats have episodic memory?  Do they remember specific details such as when and where they encountered particular odors?            

 

  • Sex differences in memory capacity. We are beginning the first studies of female rats in the odor span task. We plan to compare males and females and look for changes in memory across the rat’s estrus cycle.     

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Concept Learning:

Many psychologists and philosophers have contended that concept learning and symbolic processes are uniquely human. We are exploring ways to study such complex processes in rats and have discovered evidence that rats may be far more capable than previously believed.               

Ongoing projects include:

              

  • Same-different concept learning—we use matching- and non-matching-to-sample procedures to study whether rats can learning and generalize the concept of identity or difference

              

  • Symbol learning/stimulus equivalence—we train a common function (e.g., reinforcement vs. non-reinforcement) to physically unrelated stimuli to see whether the stimuli become functionally equivalent— a process thought to be the basis of symbol use in humans.

Extinction: Relapse, Resurgence, and Renewal

Problem behavior such as drug abuse, aggression or self-injury, can often relapse after being eliminated through extinction or treatment. We have developed rat models of relapse and use them to design improved treatment strategies that reduce resurgence, renewal and other forms of relapse.

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