Summer Research Opportunities Program
Summer research opportunities in biological, biomedical and physical sciences are available through the Wake Forest University Graduate School. For specific information on this program, please refer to the WFU Graduate School Web site.
Neuroscience Program Projects
Dr. Ronald Oppenheim, Department of Neurobiology/Anatomy
The concept that exposure to a variety of learning experiences, sensory stimulation and cognitive tasks is beneficial to the development and maintenance of brain function in human is widely accepted in society. This concept is derived in part from animal studies performed over the last 50 years in which mice, rats and other species are housed in either standard, relatively impoverished, lab cages or in cages containing a variety of toys and other objects (the “enriched” environment).
The animals from the enriched environment have larger brains and increased learning capacity. More recently, following the discovery that some regions of the adult brain of animals and humans (e.g., the hippocampus, a region involved in learning and memory), produce thousands of new neurons every day, it has been shown that an enriched environment increases the number of new neurons in mice and rats.
However, because even an enriched laboratory environment differs significantly from the normal, natural environment of mice and rats in the wild, we propose to compare the number of new neurons and behavior in adult mice kept in a large semi-natural outdoor enclosure with caged mice in “impoverished” and “enriched” environments.
Animals from an inbred strain of domestic mice will be maintained in (1) a large outdoor enclosure, (2) in standard lab cages or (3) in “enriched” lab cages for 4 weeks following treatment (injection) with a biochemical agent that specifically identifies new neurons.
At the end of 4 weeks all animals will be evaluated for behavioral performance on tests that are sensitive to changes in adult neurogenesis and enriched experience. Following behavioral testing all animals will be killed and their brains examined for the number of surviving adult-generated neurons.