Exercise, Stress, Anatomical plasticity, Quantitative Neuroanatomy
Brenda Anderson’s lab focuses on the role the environment plays in shaping behavior and the brain. In the past we have studied exercise effects on learning, anatomy, and vulnerability to seizures.
More recently, we have developed a novel living environment for rats that will allow us to systematically manipulate environmental factors implicated in stress. Our first use of this platform has been to test the effects of psychological stress by presenting repeated unpredictable threats without harm. Repeated unpredictable threats (uncertainty) enhanced defensive behaviors, elevated baseline startle and affect learning rates. Overall, this pattern of effects matches hypervigilance, a core feature of PTSD.
The lab uses the following methods:
A broad set of behavioral measures, cytochrome oxidase histochemistry as a measure of metabolic plasticity, and stereological methods for quantitative measures at the light and electron microscopic level of analysis.