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Psychology Presentations

Presentations are listed in alphabetical order by the presenter's last name.

Does jazz music enhance long-term conditioned place preference in rats?
Purpose: This study used a conditioned place preference (CPP) procedure, which is a form of Pavlovian conditioning used to assess the reinforcing aspects of stimuli (e.g., food, drugs, music, etc.). This experiment was conducted to assess the influence of food and sound on conditioned place preference in rats. Music has been demonstrated as a reinforcing stimulus in humans because it activates the reward pathway in the brain. A previous study found that the experimental group with white noise had the highest CPP (Feduccia & Duvauchelle, 2008) when the sounds were paired with administration of MDMA (3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), which is more commonly known as ecstasy. The current study will evaluate the long-term conditioning using food instead of MDMA and determine if music/white noise can enhance conditioning.
Method: This study used 8 adult, male Sprague-Dawley rats ranging from 325-345g. The rats were placed in a conditioning compartment that was divided by Plexiglas into two sides, a dark side and a light side. The researchers did an initial preference assessment by placing the rat in the apparatus and allowing it to move between the two sides as it wished and then assessing which side the rat spent more time (s) during a 15-minute session. After seeing which side the rat preferred, the researchers paired the non-preferred side with food (10g of noyes pellets) and jazz music (65-75 dB) for half of the rats and the other half were exposed to food (10g of noyes pellets) and white noise (65-75 dB). Each day, the rat would alternate between spending time in the non-preferred side with food and music/white noise to being in the preferred with no other stimuli. After 6 sessions of conditioning, another preference test was conducted to see the progress of CPP in the rat. Then, there was one more day of each conditioning session and a final CPP test so see which side the rat preferred based on how much time it spent in each side.
Findings: We expect that the group exposed to white noise and food will spend more time in the non-preferred side compared to the group exposed to music and food.
Presenters: Taylor Brown, Cheyenna Cook, Franke Pantoja and Eden Arouna / Mentor: Jon Slezak, Ph.D.
White noise or jazz music? When paired with food, which will enhance long-term Pavlovian conditioning?
Purpose: Conditioned Place Preference (CPP) is a form of Pavlovian conditioning. It measures the reinforcing effects of a particular object or experience (e.g., food, drugs,…). In these experiments a novel stimulus is paired with one (of two sides) and the change in preference for the paired side is measured (an increase in preference indicates reinforcing aspects of that stimulus. A previous study conducted by Feduccia, & Duvauchelle (2008) found conditioning enhanced most when rats were exposed to pairings of white noise and Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, MDMA, compared to rave music and MDMA. In the current study, we will be examining if the conditioning of food (instead of MDMA) is enhanced by either white noise or jazz music in a long term period, meaning that the subjects will be exposed to the two settings multiple times.
Method: We used male Sprague Dawley rats (325-345 g). They are fed approximately 15 grams of food 22 hours prior to each experimental session. They have free-access to water. The subjects are kept in a temperature controlled room that is set on a 12 hour light-dark cycle. The apparatus being used in this experiment is a conditioned place preference box. This box has two different contexts. One side is a black container with a dark lid and the other is a white container with a transparent lid. The two sides are separated by plexiglass with a small door cut into it. The animals are allowed to roam freely through the box for the first 3 sessions, known as a habituation period. On the fourth session they are given a pretest, where they are allowed to roam freely during a 15-min period, to determine their preference side. The next six sessions the subject is placed in their nonpreferred side with 10 grams of noyes pellets and white noise/jazz music or the preferred side with no stimuli. These conditions alternate through the six sessions. The subject is then given a post test. This will determine if the stimuli conditioned the subject to prefer the once non-preferred side over the once preferred side. The same process is used with subjects being exposed to food and jazz music instead of white noise. The main dependent variable is the average visit duration to the non-preferred side (s).
Findings: We expect that once the subject has been conditioned with food and white noise it will have a longer duration of visit on the once non-preferred side than the subjects conditioned with food and jazz music.
Presenters: Taylor Burroughs, Allison Wagner, Mary Carrigan, and Hanna Rojas-Rhodes / Mentor: Jon Slezak, Ph.D.
The Effects of Melatonin on C. Elegans with Various Genetic Mutations
This study looked at the effects of melatonin on c. elegans. Melatonin has previously been shown to decrease locomotion in humans and is commonly used for that purpose. However, it is unknown exactly how it signals in the brain. Therefore, we tested the effect of melatonin on various genetic mutants, including sgk-1 and daf-2. The sgk-1 gene is a homolog for the mammalian gen SGK1, a serum glucocorticoid kinase. After discovering that sgk-1 mutants reacted differently to melatonin compared to wild-type, N2 c. elegans, we decided to test various strains of c. elegans with mutations in genes that are related to the sgk-1 pathway, to try and identify exactly how melatonin signals within the cell. It was observed that worms with a mutation in their daf-2 receptor were hypersensitive to melatonin exposure as their locomotion rate decreased nearly 100 percent. This was drastically different than the expected result. The sgk-1 mutants recovered from the affects of melatonin more quickly than N2 worms, suggesting that daf-2 mutants would either recover more quickly than sgk-1 mutants or not be affected by melatonin exposure. Results suggest that there is another receptor that plays a role in binding melatonin. This research is important for understanding how melatonin signals in the cell which can help understand how other hormones signal in the brain, providing foundational information for studies in related fields.
Presenter: Nicholas De Leon / Mentor: Angy Kallarackal, Ph.D.
Short-term Pavlovian conditioning: Does auditory stimuli (smooth jazz or white noise) alter the reinforcing effectiveness of food?
Purpose: Conditioned place preference (CPP) is used to measure the motivational effects of objects or experiences (e.g., drugs, food, music). A previous study found that Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) paired with music or white noise influenced dopamine release and enhanced conditioned place preference. The current study will evaluate whether music or white noise can enhance the reinforcing effectiveness of food.
Method: In the present study, the subjects included eight adult male Sprague-Dawley rats (325-245g), with four that were paired with music, and four that were paired with white noise. The apparatus consisted of a plexiglass box that was divided into a dark and a light side. During the conditioning phases, the rats in the experimental group had access to 10g of food, and jazz music. The control group had access to 10g of food plus white noise. The rats were first tested to see which side they preferred based on how long they spent on each side during a 15-minute session. Based on this, the rats were then conditioned with food and music on the side that they did not prefer. On alternating days, they were allowed on the preferred side without access to food or music/white noise. Three conditioning trials were conducted to evaluate the short-term conditioned place preference as measured by the average duration of visit(s) during a 15-minute test trial with no food or sound exposure.
Findings and Conclusion: The present study looks at short term conditioned place preferences in rats placed in an apparatus with light and dark compartments. During the pretest trials, we found that when the rats had free-range they preferred the dark side of the apparatus. We measured this by calculating the average duration of time the rats spent on each side(s). After multiple pretest trials, we placed a rat on each side of the apparatus for a total of 15 minutes every other day. The light side, or the non-preferred side, was paired with music or white noise and food; whereas the dark, preferred side, was not paired with anything. When we conduct our post-test, we expect to find that when the rats have free-range of the apparatus they will spend the most amount of time on the light, non-preferred side due to it being paired with food and music and more so compared to the control group exposed to white noise.
Presenters: Emily Heffner, Christopher Morris, Casey Wood and Iman Linton / Mentor: Jon Slezak, Ph.D.
Hue Perception and Gender
To the average human, color is something we often take for granted while observing the world around us when, in fact, the processes of which we observe color are very complex. The main factors of perceiving color are cones within our eyes (L, M and S cones) that perceive different wavelengths of color through light. Each cone is linked to a specific color which allows us to see distinct variations between shades of colors. Despite the universal possession of cones within our eyes, factors such as age, hormones, gender, light and disease often cause variations in people’s perception of color hue. Previous research has studied the color vision variations between males and females through the Farnsworth-Munsell 100 hue test. Their results showed that females had a lower error score on the test that males when comparing the average scores between the groups. This study uses the Farnsworth-Munsell 100 Hue test to compare the scores of males and females on hue perception. Participants of Mount St. Mary’s University, 28 males and 28 females, performed the Farnsworth-Munsell test. The results did not show a statistically significant difference between male and female color perception despite the difference in means between the groups.
Presenter: Shelbee Holcomb, Shaun Miller, Alexis Price and Anne Delaney / Mentor: Angy Kallarackal, Ph.D.
A Threat at The Mount: Stereotype Threat and Black Undergraduate Students
Studies have found that black students do worse academically when they feel as though they have been stereotyped against on the basis of their race (Arbuthnot, 2003; Brown & Day, 2006; Davis & Aronson, 2006). These same students showed no difference in intellectual ability compared to their peers who performed better. Not only have multiple studies found the same effect, but this goes for other minority groups such as women and Latinos. The history of a negative relationship between blacks and education can be seen in the tension around Brown vs. Board of education. This study focuses on the fact that stereotype threat has been found to undermine intellectual abilities and academic success. We tested this theory by recruiting self-identifying African American students at Mount St. Mary’s University (N anticipated = 100). Participants did pattern matching tasks after completing one of three threat-increasing and three threat-decreasing procedures to better understand the conditions and situations that effect stereotype threat in this population.
Presenter: Jordan Hunt / Mentor: Caitlin Faas, Ph.D.
Impact of Corrective Lenses on Contrast Sensitivity
Contrast Sensitivity is one’s ability to distinguish varying levels of lumination in a space. This is important because it has been found that damage to one’s contrast sensitivity may greatly impact their visual ability, especially in low lumination settings. Prior studies have been done assessing the effect of varying lumination conditions on one’s contrast sensitivity, however, not much research has evaluated the relationship between corrective lenses and one’s contrast sensitivity. This study compared the measured contrast thresholds of undergraduate college students to determine if there is a difference in the contrast sensitivities of people with corrective lenses and people without corrective lenses. The results showed that participants with corrective lenses had higher contrast thresholds than participants with no corrective lenses, however, the results were not significant. Thus, suggesting that corrective lenses do not have an effect on one’s ability to detect lumination differences.
Presenters: Matenyeh Kaba, Ramon Pazmino, James Morris and Jordan Hunt / Mentor: Angy Kallarackal, Ph.D.
Associative Learning in C. elegans: How Are Mutants Affected?
Learning and memory is essential for survival in vertebrates and invertebrates. The task of learning may be simple, but retaining the memory is a complex and unclear process. To better understand this process, we used a salt chemotaxis assay on genetically mutated Caenorhabditis elegans. We conducted a candidate gene analysis of associative memory by testing various known mutants in this assay. The mutants tested were sgk-1, magu-2, tdc-1, and nmr-1. There are numerous distinct learning models involved with handling C. elegans, such as, salt chemotaxis learning. Naturally, wild type C. elegans are attracted to NaCl, however, if salt is first paired with starvation, wild type C. elegans will avoid the NaCl. We tested the salt chemotaxis learning assay by growing mutant C. elegans in an incubator, on a cultured plate with food. Once the progeny was fully grown, each strain of mutants was washed into tubes with a chemotaxis buffer containing a concentration of salt and another chemotaxis buffer without any salt. We theorize that the mutants sgk-1, magu-2, or nmr-1 will not retain the memory to avoid the salt when it is paired with starvation. Ultimately, none of the mutants showed an associative learning deficit compared to the control worms, including the positive controls mutants, tdc-1 and nmr-1. This suggests that either, the starvation period may be too long of a memory to manipulate, we had the wrong genotype strain, or another strain may have developed throughout the experiment.
Presenter: Chardane Logan / Mentor: Angy Kallarackal, Ph.D.
Short Term Conditioning Place Preference Conditioning of Auditory Stimuli Paired With Food
Conditioned place preference (CPP) is a form of Pavlovian conditioning used to measure the motivational effects of objects or experiences ex. food or sex. Motivation is measured through the amount of time an animal spends in an area that has been associated with the stimulus of interest. We can then infer the animal's preference for the stimulus. A previous study found that pairing “sensorial stimuli” such as noise can involve the same systems that are activated during drug use and “enhance neurochemical and behavioral responses to MDMA administration” (Feduccia, 2008,1). They found that white noise paired with MDMA resulted in the greatest conditioning. We will be testing the short-term effect of conditioned place preference using auditory stimuli (white noise or jazz music) paired with food. Eight Male Sprague Dawley rats weighing approximately 325 to 350 grams were used as subjects in this experiment. The experiment was conducted using a two-compartment apparatus with a dark and light side. The initial preference was first determined by measuring the total time spent of each side (s) during a 15-minute session. Then six conditioning sessions were implemented in which.... (describe the pairings with the non-preferred and preferred side). The subjects were habituated followed by conditioning, The last session was a post-test to determine if preference changed to do exposure to auditory and food stimuli., conditioning, and a second post-test. We expect that after administering the stimuli of white noise paired with food, time spent in the nonpreferred light side will increase significantly, indicating that the stimuli successfully created reinforcing properties superior to music paired with food.
Presenter: Maureen Maisel / Mentor: Jon Slezak, Ph.D.
Visual Acuity in Student Athletes
The purpose of this study was to test differences in visual acuity between athletes and non-athletes using Landolt C Rings. The experimental population consisted of 10 Division I athletes (5 male and 5 female) and 10 nonathletes who all took part in the Freiburg Vision Test of Acuity to test acuity using the Landolt “C” ring. Previous research reflect a similar method that was performed in the current study, however, previous research referenced athletes who participated in baseball while we used athletes that participate in basketball and soccer. This current study is important because results could prove that participation in athletic activities could improve visual acuity, in turn improving sharpness in vision. Results show that differences in visual acuity between athletes and non-athletes are not statistically significant. Results also showed that the average visual acuity measurement between athletes and non-athletes were similar in number. These findings are important because it shows that participation in athletic performance is not a defining characteristic to having better visual acuity.
Presenters: Jatarrikah Settle, Willy Almozard, Madison Welsh-Huber and Jose Lucero / Mentor: Angy Kallarackal, Ph.D.
Humans Ability to Detect Contrast with Age
Contrast sensitivity is being able to determine the minimal difference between an object and its background. When a visual target is presented against a background, the contrast allows an individual the ability to distinguish the target from the background. The purpose of the current study is to determine the correlation between contrast sensitivity and age. Contrast sensitivity was tested in eight participants between the ages of 20 and 60 (M=31.6). Each participant completed the same online contrast sensitivity test taken from the Freiburg Vision Test. The participants were placed 5 feet from a standard computer screen and asked to state the direction of an opening in a circle each time it appeared on the screen. Each time a new circle appeared on the screen the researcher would click the key that corresponded with the direction the participant stated. The contrast between the circle and the background varied significantly each time the circle appeared. If the participants finished the test with a high score, that signified contrast high sensitivity. If they finished with a low score, that represented low contrast sensitivity. A correction matrix test was ran to determine the correlation between the two variables, age and contrast sensitivity. The results showed that there was a negative correlation between age and contrast sensitivity. While this correlation was not significant (p= .08) it was extremely close.
Presenters: Casey Smial, Charles Magnetti, Calleigh Kearns and Aryna Taylor / Mentor: Angy Kallarackal, Ph.D.

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