Pre-2017 Students


Ashley N. Opalka, '17 B.S.

Ashley majored in Neuroscience and Biology, Honors Program and was President of the Scranton Neuroscience Society in 2016-17. Her Honor's project was titled, "Potential Dopaminergic Modulation Rescues Acoustic Startle Responses after Lesions of the Telencephalon in Goldfish". Goldfish react to a vibratory stimulus by a two-stage, C-shaped turn in the opposite direction of the stimulus known as the acoustic startle response. This response is mediated by Mauthner-cells (M-cells) located in the brainstem, which signal motor neurons in the spinal cord. Previous studies revealed that full ablation of the goldfish telencephalon significantly decreased the likelihood of a complete startle response; however, the precise identification of the location within the telencephalon is not known nor the projection to the M-cell in the brainstem. Different regions of the telencephalon were lesioned, and fish were then tested for the resultant behavior to determine the telencephalon nuclei related to modification of the startle response. Medial lesions significantly decreased the mean startle angle (MSA) while lateral lesions significantly increased MSA. In a preliminary study, a dopamine D1 receptor (D1R) antagonist revealed a significant decrease in MSA; thus, in a second set of experiments a D1R agonist (SKF-38393) was applied after medial lesions to determine a possible rescue effect. Statistical analysis revealed no significant difference between pre-testing and the last day of post-testing, which suggests a rescue effect and a possible dopaminergic modulation from the telencephalon to the Mauthner-cell circuitry. Future directions hope to show the neuroanatomical projections from the telencephalon to the brain stem and reveal the precise dopamine involvement in this modified startle response.  

Ashley is interested in a MD-Ph.D. given her combined interest in research and medicine. She is working as a Research Assistant at Drexel College of Medicine's Neurobiology & Anatomy Department in Philadelphia.

Sara Blazejewski, '16 B.S.

Sara majored in Neuroscience and was in the Honors Program. Her Honor's project was titled, "The influence of hair cell mechanism o death on regeneration in larval zebrafish inner ear and lateral line".

Sara is in her second year of a Ph.D. program in Neuroscience at Drexel College of Medicine, Neurobiology and Anatomy Department.

Nina Fischer, '16 B.S.

Nina was  Biology major and in the Honors Program. Her Honors project was titled "Dopamine D1 receptor antagonism modifies the startle response of Carassius auratus."

Nina is in her second year of medical school at  Western University, California.

Rachel Knuth, '13 M.D.

Rachel was a Biology major and in the Honors Program. Her thesis was titled, "Determining the prescense of laminin growth promoting molecule in goldfish spinal cord regeneration".

Rachel recently completed her medical degree at Thomas Jefferson Medical School in Philadelphia.

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