Jessica Pelletier-Brown

Jessica Pelletier

PhD, Human Services Psychology, University of Maryland-Baltimore, 2006
University of New Hampshire
McNair Scholar, 1997
Major: Psychology
Mentor: Dr. Robert C. Drugan Assistant Professor, Psychology
Research Topic: The Effects of Prior Swim Stress and Neurosteroids on Navigational Learning and Memory in Rats

The Effects of Prior Swim Stress and Neurosteroids on Navigational Learning and Memory in Rats
Previous research in the field of Behavioral Medicine has shown that stress is related to alterations in learning and memory. The focus of this research is twofold; the first goal is to characterize the relationship between acute stress and navigational memory. Secondly, to search for molecular changes at the Benzodiazepine/GABA receptor complex (BGRC) possibly due to endogenous neurosteroid release in response to stress.

A two day procedure was used to evaluate the effects of swim stress on navigational learning and memory in rats. On day one animals were injected with a vehicle solutions, exposed to inescapable swim stress in an aquarium or were not stressed, and trained to find a submerged platform in the Morris Water Maze. The training in the Morris Water Maze employed a massed learning procedure of nine blocks consisting of two trials apiece for a total of eighteen trial per animal. The latency to find the submerged platform was recorded as a measure of learning. Twenty-four hours later, the animals were tested in the maze without the platform for sixty seconds to test the animal's retention of platform location. The time in the critical quadrant and crosses over the platform's previous location were recorded as a measure of navigational memory.

Preliminary evidence indicates that prior swim stress facilitates navigational learning and appears to enhance the memory of the platform location. We are currently running trials using steroid synthesis inhibitors in an effort to explore the possible role that neurosteroids might play in this effect.