You are strongly encouraged to choose a topic that holds the most interest for you, whether personally or professionally..
Find and review 3 scientific journal articles: each review must be at least one page long and contain an informative glossary of 3-5 words. This will be your background material.
Design an experiment that would further research on this topic. Follow the same format that you used for previous lab reports. Your experimental design must include all the sections found in the previous lab reports (hypothesis, model organism, control, variables, materials, experimental method used) and must be at least 1-2 double-spaced pages. Since it is a proposed experiment there is no need to include hypothetical results or a conclusion.
An important reminder: for your bibliography, you must choose three challenging research articles on neurobiology from scientific journals (as you did for the lab reports) and they must be properly cited. Articles of a social, psychological, or political nature will not be acceptable nor will articles from the everyday press.
Lab Report Format
You must provide a link to the article itself or the .pdf along with your review. For example, this is found at Dr. Jarvis’ lab website under “publications:”
Hypothesis: When songbirds sing, gene expression patterns in their brains will reflect this in proportion to how many songs they perform.
Model organism: Brains and behaviors of both canaries (Serinus canaria) and zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) were studied.
Controls: Some birds did not sing and this seemed easy to achieve. When a human sat near them, the songbirds did not sing.
Variables: The number of songs a bird sang over a certain unit of time (e.g., 30 minutes).
Methods: After the set period of time (usually around 30 minutes), the birds were killed and their brains prepared to be studied with radioactive probe by a technique known as in situ hybridization. Detailed information on this laboratory technique is available in two of the citations provided in the article.
Data: What I found interesting is that the brain sections were analyzed by researchers who did not know how many songs each bird had sung until after the results were recorded. In this way, even slight bias could not be introduced when counting the number of silver grains exposed per cell.
Results: The evidence of ZENK gene expression, (a sign of genes turning on, memory, learning, and brain activity), was very closely proportional to the number of songs each bird sang. See Figure 3A: birds that sang no songs, showed results with a very low background of activity, birds that sang a modest number of songs had evidence of ZENK gene expression midway between birds that sang no songs and those that sang a high number of songs.
Conclusions: There are many small experiments described n this paper. This part demonstrates that the very act of singing affects gene expression in specific areas of the bird’s brain and in proportion to the amount of songs sung.
New Questions: Do some birds have more ZENK gene expression than others? Could more gene expression be correlated with social position or the vigor in which the song was sung?
Make use of the college resources, good college dictionaries, and your text.
Plasticity: One definition of this word applies in the context of “synaptic plasticity” a critical concept in neurobiology. It refers to the ability of neuron connections called synapses as “malleable” and therefore capable of change. See The American Heritage dictionary.
Song system nuclei: These are collections of nerve cells that form a complex network of interactions in the bird’s brain. See Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine.
immediate early gene (e.g., ZENK): This research tool is also explained on pages 28-29 of the text (Box 2.1). Genes such as ZENK quick acting and can signal neuron activity in specific areas of the brain. See: text page G-14.
in situ hybridization: This is another research tool described in two articles cited in this one. It is explained on pages 29-29 (Box 2.1) of the text. It is a techique that uses radioactive probes that will bind through complementary base pairing on a section of DNA or RNA. In this paper, “riblprobe” containing radioactive sulfur is used. See: text page G-14.