Browsing by Subject "Hamsters as laboratory animals"
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- ItemMolecular Mechanisms Underlying Sexual Experience-Dependent Neuroplasticity of the Nucleus Accumbens after in Syrian Hamsters(2016) Sidibe, David; Been, LauraThis study is an aims to clarify the role of delta fos-b in the reinforcement of sexual behavior in Syrian (Golden) hamsters. We used a one-way ANOVA to compare levels of delta fos-b expression from experienced animals to naïve animals, and males to females. Western blot analysis was used to quantify the amount of protein in both the nucleus accumbens (NAc) and the caudate (CP), a control brain area. We found a significantly greater amount of delta fos-b expression in the NAc in sexually experienced hamsters (both males and females) compared to naïve. In addition, there was no difference between sexually experienced males and females in overall delta fos-b expression in the NAc. Implications and future directions point towards further unraveling the unknown mechanisms of reinforcement of sexual behavior in hamsters through humans.
- ItemNaturally Motivated Behavior and Neuroplasticity: How Sexual Experience Affects Neural Activation During Sexual Behavior in Female Syrian Hamsters(2016) Caron, Madeline F.; Been, LauraNaturally motivated behaviors, like sexual behavior, are subject to behavioral plasticity, which can affect neuronal function. The purpose of this study was to investigate the plasticity of sexual behavior and neural circuits related to sexual behavior in female Syrian hamsters. We hypothesized that lordosis latency would decrease and lordosis duration would increase with sexual experience. We also hypothesized that sex experience would increase the activation of the projections from the prefrontal cortex (PFC) to the nucleus accumbens (NAc) during sexual behavior. We tested our hypothesis by ovariectomizing and hormone priming all subjects and giving half of the subjects six weeks of sex experience while the other half remained sexually naïve. All subjects then received an injection of a retrograde tracer into their NAc and a final sexual experience. All subjects were then sacrificed, and their brain tissue was collected and stained using immunohistochemical techniques. Our data did not support our hypotheses about lordosis latency or duration, and we were unable to test our neuroplasticity hypothesis due to unquantifiable staining. Limitations and possible troubleshooting techniques are discussed in the context of directions for future research.
- ItemNeuroplasticity after Sexual Experience in the Nucleus Accumbens of Syrian hamsters(2016) Acabá, Luis; Been, LauraResearch over the past three decades has demonstrated that many neural changes occur in response to rewarding stimuli and behavior. However, most of this research has focused on the changes that occur following drug use and their role in addiction. Less research has investigated the neural changes in response to everyday rewarding behaviors such as eating, exercising, and sexual behavior, and even less has explored whether these changes differ in male and female brains. The goal of this study was to investigate the changes in brain circuitry that occur in Syrian hamsters after exposure to sexual experiences and to identify any possible sex differences involved. Specifically, levels of delta FosB, a transcription factor that is important for long-term neural plasticity following rewarding experiences, was measured in the Nucleus Accumbens (NAc) as a way to quantify these neural changes. This study also aimed at investigating whether the efficiency with which hamsters mate is improved with experience, as measured by the time the hamsters are actively having sex and the amount of sex-related behaviors they perform. It was expected that sexual experiences would lead to an up-regulation of delta FosB in the NAc, that this up-regulation would not differ between the sexes, and that mating efficiency would improve with experience. The results demonstrated that sexual experience led to higher delta FosB levels in the NAc than controls, and that there were no differences in delta FosB levels between males and females of the same group. This study also found that mating efficiency was not improved with experience. The results obtained in this study suggest that the normal rewarding behavior of sexual experience leads to neuroplastic changes in the NAc of Syrian hamsters and that male and female Syrian hamsters likely have similar neuroplastic changes following sexual experiences. This research has the potential to provide a better understanding of how drugs of abuse take advantage of reward pathways, and eventually lead to better treatments for addiction.
- ItemOxytocin Receptor Plasticity Following a Hormone-Simulated Pregnancy in Syrian Hamsters: Implications for Postpartum Mood Disorders(2018) Benedetto, Lauren E.; Been, LauraDespite the fact that approximately 15‒20% of women develop postpartum depression and/or anxiety, and that the resulting outcomes for both the mother and her child are negative, the underlying neurobiological mechanisms of the disorders remain poorly understood. Previous research suggests that ovarian hormone fluctuations as well as changes in oxytocin signaling that occur at parturition and in the postpartum likely play a role in the etiology of these disorders. Given the increase in oxytocin-producing neurons in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) of the hypothalamus following a hormone simulated pregnancy, Experiment 1 sought to examine oxytocin receptor levels in PVN efferents, particularly in the medial amygdala (MeA), nucleus accumbens (NAc), bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), and raphe nuclei. Results indicate an increase in oxytocin receptor density in the raphe nuclei among hormone-withdrawn animals as compared to controls, suggesting that the region could be implicated in the etiology of anxiety-like behavior during the postpartum period. Unexpectedly, behavioral results indicate reduced non-specific locomotor ability as measured by the Open Field Test and increased anxiety-like behavior as measured by the Elevated Plus Maze in hormone-withdrawn animals. Experiment 2 sought to explore whether neurodegeneration was responsible for the decreased oxytocin-producing neurons found in hormone-sustained animals. Unexpectedly, cell death is visible in hormone-withdrawn and not hormone-sustained animals, suggesting that some neuroplasticity may be taking place. Overall, these two experiments add to our understanding of the brain and behavior following hormone-simulated pregnancy in hamsters, which may inform our understanding the postpartum period in humans.
- ItemPlasticity of Oxytocin Receptors in the Postpartum Period Using a Hamster Model(2018) Taveras, Shantal; Been, LauraThe deleterious consequences of postpartum depression and anxiety (PPD) on the mother-child dyad has greatly incentivized more research in the neurobiological mechanisms during the peripartum period. Several studies have stipulated that neurobiological and hormonal components may lead to the etiology of PPD. However, a greater understanding of the complexities of PPD will not unfold until knowledge on the typical patterns of puerperium is prioritized. In the current study, we simulated pregnancy in a hamster model to investigate changes in oxytocin receptor density in the efferents of the paraventricular nucleus (PVN). For the four regions of interest, we predicted a decrease in oxytocin receptors density for the estrogen-withdrawn hamsters within the postpartum period. The raphe nucleus (RN) was the only region of interest that attained statistical significance. Contrary to our hypothesis, the estrogen-withdrawn group exhibited a significant increase of oxytocin receptors compared to the control group in this region. Utilizing an open field test and elevated plus maze, we also expected to observe less anxiety-like behaviors from the estrogen-withdrawn group. However, our results did not reveal any statistical significance for anxiety-like behaviors. Following previous results, this study also investigated the overall neurodegeneration within the PVN, specifically an increase of cell-death in the estrogen-sustained group. After qualitative analysis, we visualized greater fluoro-jade staining, a measure of neurodegeneration, within the estrogen-withdrawn group. By gaining greater comprehension of the estrogen and oxytocin pathway, it will lead to a greater understanding of the typical postpartum period and, thereby, the intricacies involved in the peripartum period.
- ItemPostpartum Oxytocin Receptor Plasticity And Anxiety-Like Behavior in Syrian Hamsters: The Potential Role of the Dorsal Raphe Nuclei(2018) Levine, Taylor; Been, LauraThe postpartum period is a time of high vulnerability for females to develop depression. Not only does postpartum depression significantly hinders the motivation and enjoyment that a mother feels in her new role, but also the development of the offspring, doubling the impact of this unique affective disorder. Oxytocin, a hormone involved in birth, maternal behavior, depression, and anxiety may help to untangle the link between postpartum hormonal levels and the occurrence of postpartum depression. The present study examined oxytocin receptor plasticity in efferents of the paraventricular nucleus, the main source of central oxytocin, in an animal model following a hormone-simulated pregnancy. Estrogen-withdrawn females exhibited a significantly greater density of oxytocin receptors in the dorsal raphe nuclei and there were no significant differences in receptor density between hormonal treatment groups in other efferents examined. Estrogen-withdrawn females also displayed higher levels of anxiety-like behavior than estrogen-sustained animals in the Elevated Plus Maze. Ultimately, the present study aimed to understand the role of oxytocin signaling in postpartum mood disturbances and how oxytocin may meet the demand as a novel, targeted treatment for postpartum depression.
- ItemPostpartum oxytocin receptor plasticity in Syrian hamsters: Implications for the treatment of peripartum mood disorders(2018) Heaton, Elizabeth C.; Been, LauraPeripartum mood disorders, if left untreated, result in negative outcomes for both the mother and child. Despite these severe consequences, the neurobiology of peripartum mood disorders is not well understood. The present study aims to build upon previous research investigating the role of oxytocin in neuroplastic and behavioral changes during the peripartum period. Past work found a significant increase in oxytocin-immunoreactive neurons in the PVN as a result of hormone withdrawal in a hormone-simulated pregnancy model conducted in Syrian hamsters. Using the same model, we studied post-synaptic plasticity: specifically, we assessed which PVN efferents, if any, experienced changes in oxytocin receptor expression using receptor autoradiography. The regions of interest in this study were medial amygdala (MA), nucleus accumbens (NA), bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), and the raphe nuclei as each of these four areas are heavily involved in the production of maternal behavior. There was a significant increase in OTR density in the dorsal raphe in the hormone withdrawn group as compared to oil control. Changes in OTR density in the dorsal RN, which regulates serotonergic activity and anxiety- and depression-related behavior in humans and rodents, may play a role in the development or sustainment of peripartum mood disorders.
- ItemThe Impact of Sexual Experience On Sexual Behavior and Neural Activation in Female Syrian Hamsters(2016) Walsh, Olivia; Been, LauraNatural rewards and drug reinforcement cause an increase in frequency in motivated behaviors that are aimed at obtaining different rewards. These changes in behavior are reflecting changes in neurobiology. The majority of past research examining motivated behaviors has focused on investigating how addictive drugs affect the brain’s reward pathway, particularly the prefrontal cortex – nucleus accumbens reward pathway. By understanding how the reward pathway functions to regulate the behaviors it evolved for, researchers may be able to better understand how this pathway is activated under pathological conditions and improve treatment. The present study aims to observe 1) how sex experience changes sex behavior; and 2) how sex experience affects the prefrontal cortex – nucleus accumbens reward pathway in female Syrian hamsters. The first prediction is that there will be a decrease in lordosis times and an increase in lordosis duration times across the repeated sexual experiences. The second prediction is that there will be a significant increase in the activation of neuronal projections in the prefrontal cortex – nucleus accumbens reward pathway in the sexually experienced group. The results showed no statistically significant differences in lordosis latency and duration across the seven sexual experiences. This lack of significance may have been due to an interaction between the male and females during sexual behavior that was not measured for, such as ultrasonic sounds. Due to a lack of quantifiable staining, the second hypothesis was not able to be tested. However, it will be interesting to see if there were still changes in neurobiology even though there were not changes in behaviors. By understanding how these naturally motivated behaviors activate the reward pathway, researchers may be able to better understand the neural causation of pathologies of motivation, such as addiction.
- ItemThe Neurobiological Etiology of Postpartum Depression: The Role of Oxytocin in the Hypothalamus and the Amygdala(2017) Bodie, Clio; Been, LauraIn the current study, we simulated the hormonal conditions of pregnancy and a postpartum period in a Syrian hamster model in order to better understand the neurobiological etiology of postpartum depression (PPD). PPD is a distinct subtype of major depressive disorder, which develops in new mothers during the first few weeks after delivery. It is a prevalent disorder and has incredibly harmful effects on both the mother and her infant, but not much is understood about its etiology, which makes treatment difficult. We hypothesized that after estrogen withdrawal produced a PPD-like state, subjects would show behavioral indicators of anhedonia through the Sucrose Preference Test. We also expected to find decreased levels of oxytocin producing cells in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN) and the medial amygdala of animals that experienced hormone withdrawal, which we believed might contribute to the development of PPD. We did not find any significant differences in the behavioral measures testing anhedonia. Our neurobiological findings were the opposite of what we hypothesized- we found significantly higher quantities of oxytocin producing neurons in the PVN of hamsters that experienced hormone withdrawal. These findings may indicate that oxytocin contributes to dysregulation of the HPA axis in the postpartum or that oxytocin fluctuations within the postpartum period affect PPD. Future research should further explore the role of oxytocin in the hypothalamus and amygdala, as it appears to be associated with PPD.
- ItemThe Neurobiological Mechanisms of Postpartum Depression: Observing Oxytocin’s Role in the Paraventricular Nucleus of the Hypothalamus Using a Hamster Model(2017) Lee, Rachel H.; Been, LauraPostpartum depression is a condition that affects new mothers’ cognition and behavior, as well as her ability to raise the child. It affects up to 15% of women who give birth and has a wide variety of symptoms. Despite its prevalence and severity, though, the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the condition remain understudied. During pregnancy and postpartum, dramatic hormone changes occur and may play a key role in the neurobiological and behavioral aspects in postpartum depression – of note is the rise in ovarian hormones followed by their sudden drop after giving birth. Current research also suggests that the dysregulation of the hormone oxytocin (OXT), which is synthesized in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVH) and medial amygdala (MA), underlies the onset of postpartum depression. We modeled the postpartum hormonal changes in a hamster model, and specifically looked for changes in OXT-producing neurons in the PVH and MA using an immunohistochemical reaction. During behavioral testing, we hypothesized that hormone withdrawn animals would show a decreased preference for sugar water, and during immunohistochemistry, we hypothesized that this same group would show a significantly lower count of OXT cells, while control animals would show a significantly higher count. Interestingly, results showed the opposite of what we predicted – hormone withdrawn animals had a significantly higher count of OXT cells and vice versa. These results contain implications for potential fluctuations of OXT levels within the postpartum period itself.
- ItemThe Neurobiological Mechanisms of Postpartum Depression: The Role of Oxytocin in the Hypothalamus and Amygdala(2017) Amaral, Claudia F.; Been, LauraAlthough postpartum depression has a prevalence of approximately 15% and can result in negative outcomes for both the mother and her child, its underlying neurobiological mechanisms remain mostly unknown. Previous research suggests that ovarian hormone fluctuations that occur during the postpartum period could underlie depressive symptoms in postpartum depression. Studies have also suggested that changes in oxytocin signaling could also play a role in the etiology of this disorder. The present study adapts the ovarian withdrawal model of postpartum depression to a Syrian hamster animal model in order to study the neurobiological mechanisms of postpartum depression. Its aim is to test whether hormone withdrawal during the postpartum period results in changes in oxytocin signaling between the paraventricular nucleus and the medial amygdala. It is hypothesized that these neurobiological changes could be implicated in depressive-like behavior during the postpartum period.
- ItemThe Shaping of Sex Behavior, Odor Perception, and Neural Activation by Sex Experience: The Role of the Bed Nucleus of the Stria Terminalis’s Projections to the Nucleus Accumbens(2016) Williams, Alexis; Been, LauraResearch has demonstrated that drugs of abuse lead to changes in both behavior and in neural activation. Drugs of abuse activate the same reward pathway in the brain as natural rewards, such as sex behavior. In order to better understand drug addiction, it is important to study how behavior and the brain change in response to experience with natural rewards. In the model organism of the Syrian hamster, sex behavior depends critically on the processing of odors. The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), the medial amygdala (ME), and the medial preoptic area (MPOA) all process conspecific odors that help guide and reward sex behavior. There is plasticity in this brain region, and in particular sexual experience has been shown to modify the BNST’s involvement in opposite sex odor preference. It is unclear whether the number of activated projections is modified by experience. Thus, this research investigated how sex experience may change the neural response to a sexual odor in BNST neurons that project to the nucleus accumbens (NAc) in male Syrian hamsters. Hamsters were divided into a group that received no sexual experience or into a group that received eight ten-minute sexual experiences with a female hamster. Both groups of hamsters were injected with a retrograde tracer, Cholera Toxin B (CTB), into the NAc. The groups were given an odor experience and sacrificed. Immunohistochemistry was used to visualize CTB as well as c-Fos, a measure of recent neuronal activity. However, the neurons were not able to be visualized due to a hypothesized problem with over-fixation of the tissue. The research demonstrated that the number of mounts, intromissions, ejaculations, and the efficiency rate (mounts/intromissions) did not significantly differ over repeated sexual experiences. Future work utilizing correct staining of the tissue will help provide an understanding of how experiences that occur as part of an individual's everyday life can change the brain's reward system and impact future behavior.
- ItemΔFosB Induction in D1 Versus D2 Dopamine Neurons in the Nucleus Accumbens Following a Hormone-Simulated Pregnancy: An Exploratory Study(2018) Carson, Paige; Been, LauraPostpartum mood disorders (PMD) are a worldwide health concern, yet the neurobiological etiology is still widely unknown. In the present study we replicated the hormone-simulated pregnancy method developed by Liisa Galea in a novel transgenic mouse model. This approach allowed us to measure long-term genomic changes in dopaminergic plasticity in medium spiny neurons (MSNs) within the nucleus accumbens (NAc) through the transcription factor ΔFosB. We used 16 ovariectomized female transgenic mice that had fluorescent reporter molecules coupled to either D1 or D2 receptor-containing neurons; this allowed us to differentially visualize the activity of ΔFosB in each of the neuronal subtypes following a hormone-simulated pregnancy. We found a significant increase in the expression of ΔFosB in D2-MSNs in the NAc core of hormone-withdrawn animals relative to hormone-sustained animals. These neurobiological changes did not correspond with measures of anxiety in either an Elevated Plus Maze or Open Field Test. Furthermore, we found no significant changes in ΔFosB expression in D2-MSNs in the NAc shell nor in D1-MSNs in the NAc core and shell. By further understanding the influence that hormonal changes throughout pregnancy have on neurological systems, we can identify the systems that may be involved in pathological cases to develop better and more direct treatment and diagnosis options for PMD.