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Research Grants Awarded to Two Undergraduate Students

Most undergraduate students at Northeastern are eager to be involved in research, which in many cases, presents as an opportunity in a professor’s lab here on campus. With research experience, students build the necessary skills that may one day help them to start their own project. This spring, two undergraduate students who have been working in Professor Rebecca Shansky’s lab get to do just that, as they were awarded research grants from the Mindlin Foundation and Northeastern University to embark on their own research projects.

Photo pf Tatiana Pelegrina-Perez

Tatiana Pelegrina-Perez

Tatiana Pelegrina-Perez, a fourth year Behavioral Neuroscience student, won a Mindlin Foundation Award for her project “Endocannabinoid modulation of stress coping.”

Tatiana’s project seeks to investigate the sex-specific effects of the endocannabinoid system in response to aversive stimuli, such as stress. The endocannabinoid system is located in the brain and is composed of lipid-based neurotransmitters and receptors.

As Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects females twice as much as males, it is crucial to investigate the underlying neurobiological differences in order to develop better treatments. This system plays a noted modulatory role in the regulation of the stress response. Therefore, it is a promising pharmacological target towards the treatment of PTSD.

Tatiana’s project involves administering drugs that either activate or silence endocannabinoid activity in specific brain regions in male and female rodents, and observing how administration of these agents affects their behavior during inescapable stress.

Congratulations to Tatiana and best of luck with your research! Find out about other grant opportunities offered by the Mindlin Foundation here.

A picture of Nathaniel Shepard working in the lab.

Nathaniel Shepard

Nathaniel Shepard, a fourth year Biochemistry student, received a Northeastern Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavor Award for his project “Investigating the Role of Estrogen Signaling on Memory and Learning in the Rat Prefrontal Cortex.”

Nathaniels’ project addresses the connection between estrogen and learning/memory.  Women and female animals with low levels of the hormone estrogen demonstrate impaired learning and memory, a phenomenon that has been associated with dopamine signaling in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This causes a number of undesirable effects, including reduced efficacy of the most common PTSD treatment, a disease that is highly prevalent in women.

Nathaniel will investigate whether estrogen level is correlated with activity level of the major dopamine-producing pathway to the prefrontal cortex, and whether inhibiting estrogen signaling in that pathway’s origin will cause rats with high estrogen to have the same memory and learning deficiencies seen in rats with low estrogen.

This work will offer insight on the mechanism by which estrogen levels affect learning and memory, and will lead to a better understanding of how to reduce the detrimental effects of low estrogen on learning and memory tasks.

Well done, Nathaniel; we look forward to hearing about your progress. Find out how to apply for this grant offered by Northeastern University here.

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