Donna Nguyen – Independent Project

Donna Nguyen – Independent Project

Class of 2017

Introduction to Topic

After inhalational exposure to anthrax in 2001, human survivors reported trouble with remembering. This study attempted to discover whether anthrax was the cause of this reported behavioral impairment by examining the performance of rhesus macaques on a delayed match-to sample (DMTS) task, a common laboratory test of memory function.  Fourteen (8 male and 6 female) young adult rhesus macaques were placed on this task for a varying amount of daily sessions. Subjects had to discriminate and match three different color stimuli. DMTS performance before and after inhalational exposure/treatment were compared to evaluate major differences in behavior. Results demonstrated that surviving subjects who received treatment all recovered to their pre-exposure levels of performance, suggesting that anthrax did not produce long term memory impairments. In this project, I analyzed the acquisition of DMTS performance which is a topic lacking in substantial literature. I found that the amount of sessions needed to attain mastery (defined by an accuracy of 85% or higher) ranged from 7 to 32 days, averaging around 21 days. Female subjects also displayed a significantly faster acquisition speed than males.  

Keywords: delayed matching-to-sample, acquisition, mastery, memory

The Acquisition of Delayed Matching-to-Sample

in Rhesus Macaques

After inhalational exposure to anthrax in 2001, survivors reported trouble with remembering. The experiment being studied investigated whether anthrax was the cause of this by putting rhesus macaques on a delayed match-to sample (DMTS) task. DMTS is a widely-used memory task for animal models, but there is not enough literature focused on the acquisition period of the task. The current study adds to the literature by analyzing the acquisition baseline performance level of working memory on DMTS tasks by Rhesus macaques during pre-training sessions before exposure to anthrax in experimental sessions.

Project Description

In order to study the acquisition of delayed matching-to-sample in Rhesus macaques, I shadowed a principal investigator and PhD fellow in a behavioral analysis and pharmacology laboratory at the Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense at Aberdeen Proving Ground. My innovation is a research paper that analyzes the amount of time it took for Rhesus macaque animal models to acquire a baseline level of performance before beginning actual experimental trials. I will be submitting my research in a peer review journal called The Journal of Experimental Secondary Science to publish my statistical findings and add to the available literature on this topic. In order to complete this project, I spent a majority of my time analyzing raw data from the anthrax experiments in 2001, and analyzed the data with figures and advanced statistical calculations such as one-way ANOVAS and unpaired t-tests. In order to familiarize myself with the language of behavioral analysis in the professional setting, I read multiple research papers and a primer on behavioral analysis and other studies related to delayed matching-to-sample. I had meetings with my mentors where we discussed my readings in order to better my understanding of my readings.

Experience Description

I completed my shadowing experience at the Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense at Aberdeen Proving Ground. From June 20, 2016 – August 12, 2016, I worked at the institute five days a week from 8:00AM – 5:00PM, excluding holidays and illness leave. My two mentors tried to teach me a lot about the science behind behavioral analysis by giving my readings everyday along with daily discussions to reinforce the material learned.

One of the most interesting things I got to experience during my time in this lab was my work with animal research. While at first, before I started my internship, I thought I was against the idea of animal research in the laboratory setting, I began to realize that animal play essential roles in modeling human reactions so that tests do not have to be completed on human subjects. I also learned that the protocols for animal testing go through many review boards (which I also learned in AP Psychology) so they must be treated in a humane way in order for the research to take place. One day during the summer, I actually walked into a pet store and found that the animals in the lab were in better condition than those in the store after learning from my mentors and the army veterinarians what a healthy animal should look like during testing.

My lab gave me the opportunity to handle animals in the lab setting. Not many of the interns got this opportunity. I took animal handling classes taught by veterinarians on the site who taught me the proper ways to work with rodents (rats, mice, and guinea pigs). This included: how to catch them in their cages, how to properly hold them, and how to avoid getting bitten by them. We also learned how to complete subcutaneous injections with saline solution, but I did not do this on any of the animals because I did not want to hurt them. Something funny that happened was that the Major actually had one of us to a subcutaneous injection on him because we were confused on how to do it.

The actual animal work in the lab setting felt rewarding to me; especially my work with handling the mini pigs. I felt like I had a way of knowing when and when not to reinforce certain behaviors that the pigs displayed with the use of drinks and treats, by applying what I learned about behavior through my readings and discussions with my mentors. I also believe my experience allowed me to gain insight into what occurs with animal testing, so I could base my opinions on it with actual experience and knowledge. I went into my experience thinking that the field of behavior analysis would not apply to my future plans on wanting to become a pediatrician. However, my experience last summer has allowed me to return to the Medical Research Institute to work with a behavioral neuroscience lab and I am now interested in becoming a pediatric neuroscientist.

Innovation Description

It is clear that the process of creating my innovation of a research paper accounted for at least 10 hours of work. My initial data analysis was completed on Microsoft Excel during the duration of my internship. Time was spent moving the numbers from the raw data and organizing it into spreadsheets specific to each subject. This was completed for about 16 subjects with over 200 pieces of data for each. For each subject, I created connected scatter plot graphs that displayed the analysis of color bias in choice, position bias in choice, session accuracy, the moving average of session accuracy, choice latency based on color, choice latency based on position, trial accuracy based on color, and trial accuracy based on position. I then had to organize the data based on trial type because all of the subjects began different conditions of matching on different days. I used the compiled data to calculate the average values of data for all subjects, male subjects, and female subjects, and created more graphs like I did for the individual subjects, in order to find figures that would be the most suitable for presenting. In order to find more significant pieces of data, I created a bar chart which analyzed the effect of condition of the average choice latency and session accuracy for all subjects. Then, to calculate the significance of the data, I completed an unpaired t-test with Welch’s correction on a computer program which showed the data had a p-value of less than 0.05. A Mann Whitney test and f-test to compare variances was also completed on the same statistical program. The latter half of my project was spent gathering literature to reference and actually writing my research paper. Over the summer, my mentors had given my research papers related to delayed matching to sample which were relevant to reference in my article. I would say that a few hours was spent reading these initial articles (about five articles), taking notes on them, and further discussing the content with my mentors to find the significance of each piece of writing in relation to my goal of writing about acquisition. After my internship at home, I looked through PubMed.gov to search for additional literature to reference in my paper. I took notes on these papers and created citations for them on Microsoft Word. I found a peer review journal to submit my paper to by contacting a past SEAP intern who had actually been published by the same journal (http://jes2s.com/). The journal is made for high school students to publish any research they have competed in an internship or high school setting, and I believed this would give me the best opportunity to successfully get published.

There are some issues with legalities in creating my research paper. After completing my first draft, I scheduled a meeting with my mentors to work on editing the language of my paper and the methods section. But after I compile a final draft, I must submit my writings to MRICD in order to get approval for putting my writings in public.

+ Project Topic

Introduction to Topic

After inhalational exposure to anthrax in 2001, human survivors reported trouble with remembering. This study attempted to discover whether anthrax was the cause of this reported behavioral impairment by examining the performance of rhesus macaques on a delayed match-to sample (DMTS) task, a common laboratory test of memory function.  Fourteen (8 male and 6 female) young adult rhesus macaques were placed on this task for a varying amount of daily sessions. Subjects had to discriminate and match three different color stimuli. DMTS performance before and after inhalational exposure/treatment were compared to evaluate major differences in behavior. Results demonstrated that surviving subjects who received treatment all recovered to their pre-exposure levels of performance, suggesting that anthrax did not produce long term memory impairments. In this project, I analyzed the acquisition of DMTS performance which is a topic lacking in substantial literature. I found that the amount of sessions needed to attain mastery (defined by an accuracy of 85% or higher) ranged from 7 to 32 days, averaging around 21 days. Female subjects also displayed a significantly faster acquisition speed than males.  

Keywords: delayed matching-to-sample, acquisition, mastery, memory

The Acquisition of Delayed Matching-to-Sample

in Rhesus Macaques

After inhalational exposure to anthrax in 2001, survivors reported trouble with remembering. The experiment being studied investigated whether anthrax was the cause of this by putting rhesus macaques on a delayed match-to sample (DMTS) task. DMTS is a widely-used memory task for animal models, but there is not enough literature focused on the acquisition period of the task. The current study adds to the literature by analyzing the acquisition baseline performance level of working memory on DMTS tasks by Rhesus macaques during pre-training sessions before exposure to anthrax in experimental sessions.

+ Project Overview

Project Description

In order to study the acquisition of delayed matching-to-sample in Rhesus macaques, I shadowed a principal investigator and PhD fellow in a behavioral analysis and pharmacology laboratory at the Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense at Aberdeen Proving Ground. My innovation is a research paper that analyzes the amount of time it took for Rhesus macaque animal models to acquire a baseline level of performance before beginning actual experimental trials. I will be submitting my research in a peer review journal called The Journal of Experimental Secondary Science to publish my statistical findings and add to the available literature on this topic. In order to complete this project, I spent a majority of my time analyzing raw data from the anthrax experiments in 2001, and analyzed the data with figures and advanced statistical calculations such as one-way ANOVAS and unpaired t-tests. In order to familiarize myself with the language of behavioral analysis in the professional setting, I read multiple research papers and a primer on behavioral analysis and other studies related to delayed matching-to-sample. I had meetings with my mentors where we discussed my readings in order to better my understanding of my readings.

+ Experience

Experience Description

I completed my shadowing experience at the Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense at Aberdeen Proving Ground. From June 20, 2016 – August 12, 2016, I worked at the institute five days a week from 8:00AM – 5:00PM, excluding holidays and illness leave. My two mentors tried to teach me a lot about the science behind behavioral analysis by giving my readings everyday along with daily discussions to reinforce the material learned.

One of the most interesting things I got to experience during my time in this lab was my work with animal research. While at first, before I started my internship, I thought I was against the idea of animal research in the laboratory setting, I began to realize that animal play essential roles in modeling human reactions so that tests do not have to be completed on human subjects. I also learned that the protocols for animal testing go through many review boards (which I also learned in AP Psychology) so they must be treated in a humane way in order for the research to take place. One day during the summer, I actually walked into a pet store and found that the animals in the lab were in better condition than those in the store after learning from my mentors and the army veterinarians what a healthy animal should look like during testing.

My lab gave me the opportunity to handle animals in the lab setting. Not many of the interns got this opportunity. I took animal handling classes taught by veterinarians on the site who taught me the proper ways to work with rodents (rats, mice, and guinea pigs). This included: how to catch them in their cages, how to properly hold them, and how to avoid getting bitten by them. We also learned how to complete subcutaneous injections with saline solution, but I did not do this on any of the animals because I did not want to hurt them. Something funny that happened was that the Major actually had one of us to a subcutaneous injection on him because we were confused on how to do it.

The actual animal work in the lab setting felt rewarding to me; especially my work with handling the mini pigs. I felt like I had a way of knowing when and when not to reinforce certain behaviors that the pigs displayed with the use of drinks and treats, by applying what I learned about behavior through my readings and discussions with my mentors. I also believe my experience allowed me to gain insight into what occurs with animal testing, so I could base my opinions on it with actual experience and knowledge. I went into my experience thinking that the field of behavior analysis would not apply to my future plans on wanting to become a pediatrician. However, my experience last summer has allowed me to return to the Medical Research Institute to work with a behavioral neuroscience lab and I am now interested in becoming a pediatric neuroscientist.

+ Innovation

Innovation Description

It is clear that the process of creating my innovation of a research paper accounted for at least 10 hours of work. My initial data analysis was completed on Microsoft Excel during the duration of my internship. Time was spent moving the numbers from the raw data and organizing it into spreadsheets specific to each subject. This was completed for about 16 subjects with over 200 pieces of data for each. For each subject, I created connected scatter plot graphs that displayed the analysis of color bias in choice, position bias in choice, session accuracy, the moving average of session accuracy, choice latency based on color, choice latency based on position, trial accuracy based on color, and trial accuracy based on position. I then had to organize the data based on trial type because all of the subjects began different conditions of matching on different days. I used the compiled data to calculate the average values of data for all subjects, male subjects, and female subjects, and created more graphs like I did for the individual subjects, in order to find figures that would be the most suitable for presenting. In order to find more significant pieces of data, I created a bar chart which analyzed the effect of condition of the average choice latency and session accuracy for all subjects. Then, to calculate the significance of the data, I completed an unpaired t-test with Welch’s correction on a computer program which showed the data had a p-value of less than 0.05. A Mann Whitney test and f-test to compare variances was also completed on the same statistical program. The latter half of my project was spent gathering literature to reference and actually writing my research paper. Over the summer, my mentors had given my research papers related to delayed matching to sample which were relevant to reference in my article. I would say that a few hours was spent reading these initial articles (about five articles), taking notes on them, and further discussing the content with my mentors to find the significance of each piece of writing in relation to my goal of writing about acquisition. After my internship at home, I looked through PubMed.gov to search for additional literature to reference in my paper. I took notes on these papers and created citations for them on Microsoft Word. I found a peer review journal to submit my paper to by contacting a past SEAP intern who had actually been published by the same journal (http://jes2s.com/). The journal is made for high school students to publish any research they have competed in an internship or high school setting, and I believed this would give me the best opportunity to successfully get published.

There are some issues with legalities in creating my research paper. After completing my first draft, I scheduled a meeting with my mentors to work on editing the language of my paper and the methods section. But after I compile a final draft, I must submit my writings to MRICD in order to get approval for putting my writings in public.

By | 2017-05-15T15:08:11+00:00 May 15th, 2017|Biomed Capstone Project 2017|0 Comments

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