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Neural activation to multimodal signals in the house mouse

Project Full Title:

Cfos expression as a marker for neural activation in response to olfactory and auditory cues and serotonin manipulation in the house mouse

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Project Description:

This interdisciplinary project will incorporate the disciplines of Biology and Neuroscience. However the project is specifically housed within the Hope College Department of Biology. Communication signals are often complex and span multiple sensory modalities. While much research has focused on male signal production contributing to female preferences, females often give their own multimodal cues during intersexual communication events. Our findings suggest that the behavior of male mice (Mus musculus) is affected by the presence of female vocalizations and olfactory cues. Nevertheless, the neural encoding of these multimodal stimuli is poorly understood. Here we investigated the degree of neural activation in the inferior colliculus (IC), a region of the auditory midbrain, to the presence of multimodal stimuli (vocalizations and olfactory cues). We have evidence to suggest that multimodal cues may affect the activity of neurons in the IC, suggesting that primary auditory brain regions may be sensitive to cues in other sensory modalities. In addition, we have evidence to suggest that serotonin within the IC may help to encode social context. We therefore also manipulated whether mice were exposed to a serotonin precursor (i.e., to increase serotonin production) or a control. These preliminary analyses support the prediction that the combination of modalities increases the density of c-fos positive neurons in the inferior colliculus. These results support the hypothesis that social and sensory context and multimodal integration are encoded by brain regions prior to the cortex. Students involved in this project will help with Neuron image analysis, behavioral trial coding, and vocal analysis of mouse auditory production.

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