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Cognitive and Neurobiological Approaches to Plasticity

Cognitive & Neurobiological Approaches to Plasticity

Contact information

Kansas State University
Department of Psychological Sciences
492 Bluemont Hall
1114 Mid-Campus Drive
Manhattan,KS 66506
Phone: (785) 532-6850

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Behavioral Neuroscience Core

The Behavioral Neuroscience (BN) Core was built in 1981 and is the only dedicated multi-user BN facility in psychology in the state of Kansas. The Phase 1 CNAP COBRE grant allowed for significant upgrades and modernization of this facility, which are continuing in our Phase 2 award.  The comprehensive goal of the BN Core is to promote the ability of CNAP researchers to compete for extramural funding by incorporating technologies that are needed to answer the most challenging questions facing modern neuroscience researchers.

Facilities and Equipment

The facility consists of 51 rooms comprising more than 7,300 net assignable square feet including purpose-built colony rooms, procedure rooms, surgery and wet laboratory facilities, cage wash and storage spaces, offices, and a meeting room. Colony rooms are available for small-animal housing (e.g., rodents, birds), and the Core can also support special housing considerations (e.g., special light:dark cycles, special populations, breeding, etc.). Core researchers also have access to procedure rooms dedicated to behavioral testing. 

The BN Core supports users the conducting a wide range of behavioral assays. In our current laboratories, we utilize a range of different behavioral techniques including a wide array of Pavlovian and instrumental paradigms, drug self-administration, locomotor behavior, open field search/navigation, ultrasonic vocalization recordings, and forced swim tests.

Office and meeting spaces are housed in a separate block inside the facility, making it easy for post-doctoral fellows and students to interleave their research activities with their other work, and also supplying a rich environment for regular exchanges among laboratories within the Core. 


The core has added the following since our Phase 1 COBRE award began:

  • Two procedure hoods and downdraft surgical tables
  • A research grade refrigerator, a -20°C freezer, two -80°C freezers, a large autoclave, an ice machine, a reverse osmosis/deionized water machine, a blood alcohol analyzer, two dual arm stereotaxic instruments with microinfusion pumps, two isoflourane rigs, and four heat pumps for surgery recovery 
  • A fluorescence microscope, which was co-funded by a grant from the Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence
  • An in-house cage washer and a new laundry facility

The Phase 2 COBRE award will allow the BN Core to also acquire shared equipment and capabilities for electrophysiological recordings and optogenetic manipulation.

Core Services

The core provides a wide range of essential services to users. 

  • The core handles all aspects of animal care and husbandry, including cage changes and cage washing
  • The core is responsible for maintaining scheduling of all spaces and equipment within the facility and for equipment maintenance
  • In addition, the core maintains facility records for compliance reporting

Core staff also interface with other critical organizations on K-State's campus to ensure smooth delivery of services for Core users.  This includes coordination with the Comparative Medicine Group, K-State's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), and the Division of Facilities. 


Charles PickensCore Director

Dr. Charles Pickens serves as Director of the BN Core.  Dr. Pickens is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences at K-State. He has 20 years of experience in behavioral neuroscience research with rats and mice. He is also a member of the K-State Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). Dr. Pickens has substantial experience with research on several versions of the reinforcer devaluation task, fear conditioning and punishment learning, alcohol consumption and exposure, and intracranial surgeries to create lesions or infuse inactivating agents into the brain. Additionally, he has experience using immunohistochemistry assays to determine neuronal activity and connectivity of brain areas. Dr. Pickens oversees the overall functioning and operations of the Core and supervises Core staff. 

Animal Care Technician

Ms. Madison Eaton serves as the Animal Care Technician. She handles all aspects of animal care and husbandry in the BN Core, including cage and bedding changes, cage washing, cleaning colony rooms, storerooms, and the cage wash, maintaining shared research and meeting spaces, trash removal, and washing laundry (e.g., laboratory coats). Ms. Eaton also conducts daily room checks, maintains core facility records (for IACUC and AAALAC reporting), assists with training and orientation of new students and staff, performs health checks and minor animal first aid techniques, arranges for maintenance of facility equipment (such as the cage washer and water machine), and conducts quality assurance testing for the adequacy of cleaning procedures.

Assistant Director

The BN Core Assistant Director assists with management of the facility in several ways, including ordering of supplies, maintaining inventory, arranging for and monitoring ongoing maintenance of equipment and spaces, and helping to manage shared-user spaces.


Interested researchers can contact Dr. Pickens to learn more about the BN Core facilities and services or to schedule a tour.