Voelcker Academy

Research Symposium 2009


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Alexandra Sharp

Blockade of adrenergic receptors during chronic unpredictable stress prevents the detrimental effects on cognitive flexibility in rats

Alexandra Sharp

Mentor(s): Julianne D. Jett, Tania B├ędard-Arana, Gustavo Rodriguez, and David Morilak

Chronic stress is a risk factor for many neuropsychiatric conditions, such as depression and anxiety disorders. These illnesses share a feature known as cognitive inflexibility, in which an individual cannot use the information from the outside environment to change their thought process and behavior accordingly. Cognitive inflexibility requires the prefrontal cortex and in these illnesses the prefrontal cortex is hypoactive. The purpose of this study is to find out how chronic stress is related to cognitive inflexibility and hypoactivity in the prefrontal cortex. Norepinephrine (NE) is a neurotransmitter that is released in the prefrontal cortex during stress. NE is also known to facilitates cognitive flexibility in the prefrontal cortex. (Lapiz and Morilak, 2006). Repeated stress causes a deficit in cognitive flexibility. (Bondi et al., 2008). We hypothesize that the beneficial effect of NE when it is activated once might eventually cause a deficit when it is activated repeatedly.