Ashley White of Dothan was recently recognized at the University of Alabama Research and Creative Activities (URCA) conference.
White received 1st Work in Progress for a presentation titled Learning Mechanisms Underlying Win-Lose Effects in the Life Sciences, Mathematics and Water category.
Presentation summary: Social interactions can significantly alter future behavior, but we lack an understanding of the learning mechanisms behind the construction of memories that influence behavior. In the mangrove rivulus fish, Kryptolebias marmoratus, winners of social competitions tend to keep winning streaks while losers tend to keep losing. This study aims to manipulate the ability of mangrove rivulus fish to form “social” memories by activating and blocking receptors in the brain that facilitate learning. Focal fish will compete with a trained loser (forcing a winning experience), a trained winner (forcing a losing experience) or no one (control). From there, focal fish receiving any of these experiments will be exposed to MK-801, nicotine, MK-801, and nicotine, or nothing. MK-801 blocks receptors involved in memory formation, while nicotine opposes the effects of MK-801. After 24 hours, the focal fish will fight a naive opponent of comparable size and the results will be recorded. Our prediction is that fish receiving the MK-801 treatment will have no memory of the fight and have a 50:50 chance of winning the fight against the naive opponent. Fish exposed to nicotine should have an increased learning experience, and previous winners and losers should win and lose proportionately more against the naive opponent, respectively. For the MK-801 and nicotine dual treatment, we would expect the activation and blocking of the receptors to cancel each other out, making it an ordinary learning experience, where the focal fish should lose if they have lost. the first time and win if he won the first time. Fish that are not exposed to pharmacological manipulations must remember and reproduce the results of their first fight (for example, winners win again, losers lose again). Focal fish that have not competed before being exposed to the treatments will serve as an “experiment” control and should have a 50:50 chance of winning the fight against a naive opponent, regardless of how the neurochemistry has been manipulated. Our results will shed light on whether and how learning and memory mechanisms influence the dynamics and outcomes of aggressive social interactions.