Jared Newell


Education: Bachelor of Science in biology (May 2021)

Currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in neuroscience at Brandeis University

McNair Project: Developing an Automated Self-Administration Reward Paradigm for Zebrafish (Danio rerio) (2020)

Mentor: Thomas Mueller, Ph.D.

The zebrafish model is an increasingly important genetically tractable model system for neural mechanisms of behavior and neurological disorders. Using this model, the Mueller-Lab aims to dissect conserved neural circuits of reward-driven associative learning, which is compromised in affective disorders such as Schizophrenia, addiction, fear and anxiety disorders. The development of an automated self-administration paradigm will allow the collecting of data related to neural circuits of associative learning. In collaboration with the group of Dr. Prakash (Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering), we further developed the behavioral paradigm and computational infrastructure for the automated reward self-administration paradigm. The developmental stages required a lot of preliminary research and trials. Avoiding anomalies like anxieties in the test subjects and identifying the most effective method of data collection were some of the most vital sections of development. Methods used to develop the paradigm mainly included careful analysis of previous studies in the field. This self-administration reward paradigm relies on training the zebrafish to associate swimming in the ‘active’ corner of the tank with the release of a reward in the form of food. The expected result is an increase in events that trigger the IR sensors at the ‘active’ corner. This model is referred to as a contingent paradigm, as it requires action on the animal’s part in order to receive the incentive. Contingent models have shown higher success in studying realistic associative learning. Ultimately, the fully automated paradigm will allow dissecting neural circuits of associative learning in the Mueller-Lab.