Developing an Assay of Self-Oriented Behaviors

Michelle at work desk




Associate Professor of Psychiatry

Project Summary

This past summer I had the opportunity to spend ten weeks at the Translational Research Laboratory researching self-oriented behaviors in mouse models under the mentorship of Dr. Edward Brodkin. Dr. Brodkin’s lab, which is part of the Department of Psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine, specializes in social behavior research in mice, and is involved in a novel genetic research study, the Asperger Syndrome Program of Excellence (ASPE), in which measures of self-oriented behaviors will be included.

My project concerned developing a novel assay for aggressive and self-oriented behaviors (behaviors in which one mouse monopolizes access to a highly preferred food item) exhibited in various mouse strains and finding connections to the neurobiological and genetic bases of such behaviors. I analyzed videos of mice interacting in the presence of a highly-preferred food item (Reese’s peanut butter cups), and logged behaviors such as attacks, aggressive grooming, and tail rattles in the vicinity of food, as well as time spent eating and sniffing the candy. I focused on organizing and graphing the initial data to show relationships between the amount of candy given and mouse behavior.

Through my work with this data, I strengthened my skills in analyzing and coding social behaviors in mouse models. I also gained experience in the process of developing new behavioral assays for research in mice. Additionally, I improved my ability to understand data and represent information graphically and statistically, focusing on drawing important connections that highlight sources of self-oriented behaviors. I grew to understand that raw data can be organized to depict trends and relationships that are not initially apparent.