August 08, 2016
Twenty Susquehanna University students presented original research at the sixth annual Susquehanna Valley Undergraduate Research Symposium, held July 27 at Bloomsburg University.
Their research topics ranged from the diversity of spider species along riparian buffers and how climate change is affecting the red-backed salamander, to two studies that examined the effects of alcohol and maternal stress on the adult female and developing brains, respectively.
Using mouse models, students examined the changes undergone by specific cells (microglia) within the brain in adult male and female mice after being treated with an acute dose of alcohol.
"Microglia are the immune cells of the brain, and their abnormal functioning has been implicated in the development of neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders, including depression and addiction," said co-author and senior biology major Lauren Cram, of Belmar, N.J. "Evidence also suggests that women are more susceptible to some of these disorders than men."
Their research revealed changes in the microglia in female mice compared to male mice.
A second study looked at the effect of prenatal maternal stress on the brain of the developing fetus.
"Previous studies have shown a clear link between prenatal stress and psychiatric disorders such as depression and schizophrenia," said co-author and senior neuroscience major Elizabeth Jones, of Fleetwood, Pa.
To model prenatal stress, Jones and her fellow researchers limited food intake in the second half of pregnancy of rats. Their analysis found that offspring of food-restricted rats show changes in their prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that greatly contributes to personality development.
Both studies concurred that understanding the role of alcohol and brain dysfunction in the development of psychiatric disorders, and the relationship of maternal health and developmental disorders may help pave the way to better treatments for both in the future.
"The opportunity our students have to not only participate in research, but to present that research and potentially see that research published-with their name as author-is invaluable in their development as scientists," said Toshiro Kubota, associate professor of mathematical sciences at Susquehanna University and an organizer of the event.
In addition, Susquehanna sends a large contingent of students to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each spring, and has been recognized as a leader among schools nationally in providing students opportunities to present their research.