Baylee (Porter) Hansen


Education: Bachelor of Science in psychology (May 2017)

Currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in neuroscience at the State University of New York - Upstate Medical

McNair Project: Establishing Behavioral Paradigms to Functionally Characterize the Zebrafish Amygdala (2016)

Mentor: Thomas Mueller, Ph.D.

Altered smell sensation is a hallmark of human affective disorders. Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are characterized by deficits in odor discrimination. Despite their medical relevance, the neural circuits mediating olfaction and emotion in higher forebrain regions is barely understood. Zebrafish, due to its small size and amenability to genetic manipulations is an important model to dissect neural circuits of sensory processing and behavior. We have investigated neural activity patterns with an antibody against phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase (pERK) as a readout of neural activity in odor-driven experimental paradigms. We then compare expression patterns after inducing specific emotional states such as fear, anxiety, and appetitive behaviors. The different paradigms reveal distinct expression patterns supporting an overall conserved functional forebrain organization. This methodology can be used to functionally characterize the zebrafish forebrain in regard to odor-processing nuclei. This provides the foundation to dissect neural circuits of odor-induced emotion in this model organism.