The Novelty Suppressed Feeding (NSF) test is one of many behavioral tests that evaluate the activity of antidepressant drugs in mice. NSF is an easy and reliable method; it is sensitive to chronic but not acute antidepressant treatment, just like in humans. The goal of my project was to evaluate several protocols to optimize the NSF test in our laboratory and to evaluate the antidepressant effects of ketamine using this test. We identified and optimized a method that creates a stressful environment for mice using bright lights and a small container and measured the time it took mice to eat a new and desirable food in these stressful conditions. We found that 10mg/kg ketamine one hour before testing successfully reduced the latency to eat in this model, modeling the antidepressant-like effect that is also observed in humans. This model is a valuable tool and we will use it to study the effects of genetic manipulations and the activity of different antidepressants.
My summer research experience has taught me about the scientific method, behavioral research, critical thinking, and working both independently and collaboratively in a professional setting. Importantly, I was able to play a critical part in developing, optimizing, and executing new protocols, enabling me to meaningfully contribute to the lab and the ongoing projects. I learned how to handle and inject the mice and to work with animals scientifically in a humane way – this skill in addition to critical thinking skills, planning, and professional development will further apply in my medical training in the years to come. In addition, through slicing and staining mouse brains I have learned a plethora about brain architecture and function. This hands-on experience perfectly complemented my coursework in the Psychology major and I am thankful for the CURF funding and the training of Dr. Julie Blendy’s laboratory which allowed me to do this research.