Talus McCowan, M.S.


Education: Bachelor of Science in psychology (August 2013)

Master of Science in pharmacology, physiology, and therapeutics from the University of North Dakota

Currently pursuing a Doctor of Medicine at the University of North Dakota Medical School

McNair Project: Relationship Between Novelty Seeking, Ultrasonic Vocalizations, and Incentive Salience (2013)

Mentor: Mary Cain, Ph.D.

This study investigated the relationship between novelty, ultrasonic vocalizations, incentive salience, and drug exposure. Rats were exposed to 3 novelty screens; each measuring different aspects of novelty. Following the screens they had repeated exposures to either amphetamine (0.3mg/kg or 1.0mg/kg), or saline. Animals were then trained in a Pavlovian conditioning procedure to measure goal and sign tracking. Analysis of the results revealed there was a significant increase in vocalizations from the 2 minutes before tickling between the first and last day of the tickle screen there was also a positive correlation between the change in USVs and the preference ratio calculated from the novelty place preference. These results indicate that the animals that increased the most between days 1 and 4 of the tickle screen also were the highest novelty seekers in the Novelty Place Preference Screen, suggesting a relationship between these individual differences and reward sensitivity.