This past summer, I had the opportunity to work at a biology lab at Penn that focuses on investigating the neural circuits responsible for hunger, pain, and itch in mice under the direction of principal investigator J Nicholas Betley. As a potential neurobiology major, this lab explored areas which I am extremely interested and exposed me to concepts that helped me understand more about the brain. I was able to learn a serious of concepts and techniques used within the lab that apply to a lot of aspects of research. From perfusions, cutting brains, clearing brains, and microscopy stain-imaging, to handling mice, IP injections, and genotyping, I was able to learn a wide spectrum of research techniques.
Around halfway through the summer, I was given experiments to help with that focused on the effects of alcohol on food intake and the brain. While much is known about the effects of alcohol in general, not much is known about how and why it effects hunger and food intake. My goal for the summer was to take a step closer in understanding the relationships of alcohol and hunger, through the investigation of behavioral and anatomical aspects of mice. The experiment consisted of handling 25 mice, measuring their body weights and food intake after being injected daily with either saline or ethanol. After 2 weeks, the mice were perfused and their brains were removed. The brains went through a lengthy process of being “cleared” and getting ready for imaging. The brains are currently still being investigated, but we hope to find differences within the molecular architecture of synapses and neurotransmitters within the mice that received a binge of alcohol “drinking”.
Being a part of this lab gave me exposure to research, which was something I’d never been involved before. It opened new doors to potential career paths, and exposed me to more about neurobiology in general. It was a very enlightening experience, and I hope to be able to continue investigating these concepts within the lab.