#StepUpForWabash

To support our Psychology students simply select
Psychology when making your gift.

Today is a day we #StepUpForWabash and together we will show the world that no other college on the planet does a better job of educating men than Wabash. If you aren’t already aware, Wabash is having another important day today and it would be great for you to join me in supporting the College on the Day of Giving.

Current students Keanan Alstatt ’19, Michael Trebing ’19, and Ben Huynh ’20 and recent alum Nigel Dao ’18 traveled to the Society for Neuroscience Meeting in November 2018 to present the results of their research projects

With your help, Wabash will reach important benchmarks that will enable us to leverage more than $410,000 in lead challenge gifts. The goal is to receive 4,410 gifts on 4.10. As we achieve each goal, we will realize gifts that will have a lasting impact for Wabash students. Support Wabash students and encourage others to do the same!

In Psychology, the donations we received over the past several years have allowed us to support additional summer research interns, to expand research opportunities for students, and to send our students to present their work at regional and national conferences. For example, donations from last year’s Day of Giving allowed us to take three current students, Keanan Alstatt ’19, Michael Trebing ’19, and Thach ‘Ben’ Huynh ’20, to San Diego last November to present their research on decision-making at the Society for Neuroscience Meeting, and to send Keanan and Ben to present at a regional neuroscience at IUPUI this spring.

Today, your support will provide opportunities to students conducting research this summer and over the coming year, and allow them to present the results of their work at regional and national meetings. Funds raised today will cover travel expenses and participant recruitment costs for these projects, which will be critical for our young men to complete their projects. Regardless of the career plans of our students – whether they are looking ahead to graduate school, looking to start their career, or pursuing medicine or the law – we believe that hands-on research, working with faculty is some of the most important training our students receive. To be able to pose key questions, collect data, draw justified conclusions and communicate one’s work – these are key skills for success for all of our students. With your support, we can continue to provide these kinds of excellent opportunities for our students, and we hope you will consider donating to the Special Psychology Fund today to support student research and professional development.

And, for every gift made to the Special Psychology Fund, the Psychology faculty will match $10 dollars up to $850!  To support Wabash and our Psychology students, when making your gift at www.wabash.edu/410, simply select Psychology from the drop‐down menu.

Join us as #OurWabash! Support Wabash students and encourage others to do the same!

And, if you happen to be are on campus later this month, please consider dropping in on our Psychology Research Symposium (Tuesday, April 23rd, from 4-6pm in Detchon International Hall) where our seniors will be presenting their capstone research projects. And, Femi Oluyedun ’12’s keynote address will begin around 6:45 in Hays 104, so it will be a wonderful opportunity to share the work of our current students and alums!

Best wishes, and thank you again for your support,

Neil Schmitzer-Torbert
Associate Professor of Psychology
Coordinator of Faculty Development

Psychology Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WabashPsych

Celebration of Student Research 2019

Tung Bui ’19 won one of the Wabash College Celebration, Research, Scholarship and Creativity awards for his presentation – “Would attributions help alleviate the envious emotion?”

At the 19th annual Celebration of Student Research, Scholarship and Creativity, (Friday, January 25th, from 1-4pm in Detchon International Hall), senior Psychology majors Keanan Alstatt ’19, Michael Trebing ’19, and junior Ben Huynh ’20 will present on their research on developing new tools to measure decision-making in humans, while Colby Dunigan ’19 and Jorge Rodriguez ’19 will present their summer research on color vision, which was supported by Dr. Gunther’s grant from the National Science Foundation. Several other psychology students will be presenting work conducted for class projects or independent study, and from across the college, and we will also see presentations from several students working in Biology (sponsored by Drs. Heidi Walsh and Bradley Carlson) on their work on the effect of obesity on the hypothalamus and from students working with our Global Health Initiative  (sponsored by Jill Rogers and Dr. Eric Wetzel ) on work related to mental health, all of which should be of great interest to students studying psychology and/or neuroscience!

Below, we’ve tried to gather a list of the presentations that are most relevant to Psychology students and students interested in Neuroscience, but we would encourage you to try to see a bit of everything at the Celebration! If you happen to be on campus, we hope to see you at the Celebration this year, and we are very impressed with the wide range of work that our students have done over the last year!

And, you can find the full schedule of presentations and descriptions of the work here (PDF)!

Posters – 1-2:30PM – Detchon International Hall
#5 Colby Dunigan & Jorge Rodriguez Cortically-Stimulating Gratings Reveal Non-Cardinal Colors Better than do LGN-Stimulating Spots
#15 Keith Kline Circulating Carotenoid Levels in Eastern Box Turtles
#27 Michael Tanchevski & Rithy Sakk Heng Palmitate signaling in Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone Neurons Induces Inflammation and Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress in a TLR4-Independent Manner
Posters – 2:30-4PM – Detchon International Hall
#2 Thach Huynh, John Trebing & Keanan Alstatt Validation of a Translational Virtual Experiential Foraging Task for Humans
#10 Christopher Wilson & Lucas Soliday Effects of a High Fat Diet on Rat Hypothalamus Neurons and a Possible Botanical Remedy
#24 Chaz Rhodes Eye Color Change and Variation in Eastern Box Turtles

Talks

2:40PM Detchon 112 Hunter Jones Small Town Actions towards a National Epidemic: Experiences with Combating
the Opioid Epidemic at the Montgomery County Health Department
3:00PM Detchon 112 Eric Lakomek A Patient’s Perspective in Obtaining Mental Health Treatment

Summer research – Huynh ’20

Thach “Ben” Huynh ’20 spent his summer conducting research with Dr. Neil Schmitzer-Torbert, looking at differences between smokers and non-smokers in a new decision-making task. For this work, Ben held the Parks Internship, generously supported by the family of Wabash Psychology professor Dr. Eldon Parks in his memory:

Last summer I had the opportunity to complete an internship under the supervision of Dr. Neil Schmitzer-Torbert. Our research project focused on the design and validation of a novel computer task that studies naturalistic decision-making in humans. We refer to this program as the “Movie Row Task” (as it is based on a task originally developed for rats and mice called the Restaurant Row). Overall the internship was an invaluable learning experience that allowed me to acquire new skills (e.g., MATLAB) and gain hands-on exposure to research.

We took much of our inspiration for the summer project from research by Dr. David Redish and colleagues (Steiner & Redish, 2014 and Abram et al., 2016). In the former research article, the authors used a relatively new task to study regret and its representation in the brain in rats. The task, the “Restaurant Row Task” (RRT), was a square maze with four spokes of food dispensers at each corner of the square that represented four different food pellet flavors. Rats would travel among these spokes and wait some time to eat the food pellets whose flavor they liked. The rats had the choice to either wait for the food pellets or skip them for other offers. Redish and colleagues characterized “regret-inducing” instances as cases where rats skipped a good offer (i.e., offers of preferred food flavors with low delay time) only to encounter a bad offer (i.e., offers of less preferred food flavors with high delay time.) The authors found that, in regret conditions, rats showed increasing deliberation (i.e., vicarious trial and error) before entering the bad offer zone, higher probability of accepting the bad food offers, and shorter reward consumption time. Along with behavioral results, Redish and colleagues also presented some neural correlates of regret in rats.

Abram and colleagues (2016) designed a version of the RRT, called the “Web-Surf Task” (WST), to test if results from rats tested in the RRT would “translate” to humans, and provide valuable clinical insights. In this task, participants would “surf” among galleries of four types of videos (cat, bike fail, landscape, and dance videos) via clicking on-screen buttons. The idea behind the design of the WST was that human online information-foraging was similar to animal food-foraging. The types of video stimuli were selected based on their different brain area representation which would support brain imaging studies. Abram et al., (2016) showed that the WST was consistent with the RRT and showed high reliability. However, since the participants in the WST did not travel among options physically, the researchers were unable to observe physical behavior (e.g., travel trajectories, etc.) that may be relevant to decision-making (e.g., vicarious trial and error). Indeed, the lack of physical travel was the most glaring inconsistency between the WST and the RRT.

As such, Dr. Schmitzer-Tobert attempted to design another version of the RRT that would combine the physicality of the RRT and the human compatibility of the WST. This version, the “Movie Row Task” (MRT), allowed participants to travel and watch the galleries of videos (used in Abram et al., 2016) in a 3D environment using the arrow keys. My Behavioral Neuroscience class tested the first design of the MRT using samples from Wabash College in the spring of 2018. We found out that the first version suffered from some instruction flaws that prevented participants from showing clear patterns of preference for the stimuli. In many cases participants either did not show any preference for any video type or showed very high delay for all video types. Thus, for my summer internship, Dr. Schmitzer-Torbert designed a second variation of the MRT that fixed the instruction flaws from the original design. We recruited online workers from the Amazon Mechanical Turk to validate this version of the MRT. In addition to healthy participants, we also targeted nicotine-dependent (i.e., smokers) individuals to investigate the effect of nicotine addiction on decision-making on the MRT.

Our second design fared better than the first one in inducing clear displays of preference among the different stimuli types. We were able to replicate some interesting decision-making phenomena from studies that utilized the RRT for rodent samples such as deliberation (Steiner and Redish, 2014), sunk cost (Sweis et al., 2018), and regret (Steiner and Redish, 2014). Particularly, we succeeded in characterizing regret behaviors in human participants on the MRT. Unlike rats (whose behaviors I highlighted above), human subjects tended to skip bad offers in an efficient manner in regret-inducing instances. For “sunk-cost,” we found that when participants had waited for an offer, they would be less likely to quit the offer; more so with increasing wait time. Finally, some deliberation metrics such as total duration and rotation on the task were sensitive to the delay thresholds of each participant. For analyses involving nicotine addiction, however, we were unable to find significant differences between the performances of smokers versus non-smokers on this version of the task. That said we are excited to further this line of research in future studies.

Because this project was “computational” in nature, Dr. Schmitzer-Torbert taught me how to use MATLAB to analyze and visualize data. Learning MATLAB for me was difficult (given my lack of experience in programming) but rewarding. I still recall the satisfaction I felt when I was able to produce my first complete graph in MATLAB. Dr. Schmitzer-Torbert also allowed me to conduct literature review independently, which helped me to hone my research skills significantly. I hope that these skills would benefit me in my future academic career.

As a concluding note, I would like to thank Dr. Schmitzer-Torbert and the Department of Psychology at Wabash College for a wonderful summer experience. I would also like to express gratitude to alumni and donors who made such an experience possible.

#OurWabash

To support our Psychology students simply select
Psych when making your gift.

Today, the entire Wabash community is striving together for #OurWabash! If you aren’t already aware, Wabash is having another important day today and it would be great for you to join me in supporting the College.

Neil Dittmann ’19 and Niki Kazahaya ’18 traveled to the SfN annual meeting in D.C. to present their summer research with support from alumni.

Alexiz Arellano ’18 and Kirby Cox ’18 traveled to the Ohio State University with Dr. Olofson for part of their summer research project funded through alumni donations.

With your help, Wabash will reach important benchmarks that will enable us to leverage more than $400,000 in lead challenge gifts. The goal is to receive 4,180 gifts on 4.18. Doing so will have a lasting impact on our College. Support Wabash students and encourage others to do the same!

In Psychology, the donations we received over the past several years have allowed us to support additional summer research interns, to expand research opportunities for students, and to send our students to present their work at regional and national conferences. For example, donations from last year’s Day of Giving have supported a year-long research project undertaken by Nigel Dao ’18 to assess the effects of obesity on sexual function in male rats. Your donations also helped support student travel to professional conferences, including Niki Kazahaya ’18 and Neil Dittmann ’19, who presented the results of their research on spatial navigation in rats both at a regional neuroscience meeting in Ohio and at the Society for Neuroscience Meeting in Washington, D.C. Tung Bui ’18 presented his summer research both at a national social psychology conference in Atlanta in the fall, and again this past weekend in Chicago for a regional psychology conference. At the same time, Kaleb Hobgood ’19 travelled to Butler University to present on his work on the mechanisms relating mindfulness to mental health and decision-making.

T

Tung Bui ’19 won one of the Wabash College Celebration, Research, Scholarship and Creativity awards for his presentation – “Would attributions help alleviate the envious emotion?”

oday, your support will help provide opportunities to students who will be conducting research this summer and over the coming year. Five students will spend their summer conducting research projects with Drs. Karen Gunther, Bobby Horton and Neil Schmitzer-Torbert. Their research projects will range from probing the mechanisms underlying color vision to efforts to improve and protect spatial memory. Several students will plan to present their work on campus next year, and in regional and national meetings. Funds raised today will cover travel expenses and participant recruitment costs for these projects, which will be critical for our young men to complete their summer research. We think that this will be an excellent opportunity for our students, hope you will consider donating to the Special Psychology Fund today to support student research and professional development.

And, for every gift made to the Special Psychology Fund, the Psychology faculty will match $10 dollars up to $850!  To support Wabash and our Psychology students, when making your gift at www.wabash.edu/418, simply select Psych from the drop‐down menu.

Join us as #OurWabash! Support Wabash students and encourage others to do the same!

Best wishes, and thank you again for your support,

Neil Schmitzer-Torbert
Daniel F. Evans Associate Professor in Social Sciences

Psychology Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WabashPsych

Celebration of Student Research 2018

Carson Powell ’17 discusses his research with his mentor, Dr. Gunther, at the 2017 Celebration of Student Research

At the 18th annual Celebration of Student Research, Scholarship and Creativity, (Friday, January 27th, from 1-4pm in Detchon International Hall), senior Psychology majors Nigel Dao ’18, Tung Bui ’18, AJ Belden ’18 and T.J. Kilbourne ’18 will present the results of their research, from summer internships and class projects. Several other psychology students will be presenting work conducted for class projects or independent study, and from across the college, we will also see presentations from several students working in Biology (sponsored by Drs. Heidi Walsh and Brad Carlson) on topics ranging from hypothalamic neurons to turtle temperament, all of which should be of great interest to students studying psychology and/or neuroscience!

Below, we’ve tried to gather a list of the presentations that are most relevant to Psychology students and students interested in Neuroscience, but we would encourage you to try to see a bit of everything at the Celebration! If you happen to be on campus, we hope to see you at the Celebration this year, and we are very impressed with the wide range of work that our students have done over the last year!

Posters – 1-2:30PM – Detchon International Hall
#5 AJ Belden Box Turtle Boldness: Responses to Simulated Predator vs. Confinement Assays
#9 Tung Bui Would Attributions Help to Alleviate the Envious Emotion?
#15 Nigel Dao Estrogen Influences Astrocyte Density in Forebrain Circumventricular Organs
of Ovariectomized Rats Following Polyethylene Glycol-induced Hypovolemia
#29 Warren Moseman & Alec Bertsch Transcription Factor C-fos Mediates Repression of GnRH Expression Induced by ER Stress
Posters – 2:30-4PM – Detchon International Hall
#2 Nigel Dao, T.J. Kilbourne, & Zane White Exploring the Moral Foundations of Immoral Personality Traits
#6 Zachary Patton Investigating a Relationship Between Maturity and Responsibility
#8 Joe Pich GPS Tracking of Box Turtles using Arduino Circuits
#16 William Robinson American Toad Urination as a Predator Diversion Behavior

Talks

2:40PM Detchon 112 Christopher Wilson Palmitic Acid Induces ER Stress in Hypothalamic Neurons: Implications for
Obesity and Infertility

Summer research – Arellano ’18 and Cox ’18

Seniors Alexiz Arellano ’18 and Kirby Cox ’18 worked this summer with Prof. Olofson, and Alexiz submitted the post below, about their research on attachment:

This summer fellow classmate Kirby Cox and I had the amazing opportunity to work under Dr. Olofson and the Psychology Department of Wabash College. Our research focused on developing a scale that would properly measure the parent–child attachment relationship. It is well established that attachment security is a relationship or secure base that may develop between the primary caregiver and the child overtime, research mostly throughout the strange situation procedure has identified three attachment categories. These are secure, insecure – resistant, and insecure – avoidant attachment (Ainsworth 1973). Secure attachment can be identified as a healthy, high–quality relationship in which children use their parents as secure base for exploration. An insecure–resistant is a relationship in which children have less positive attachment to their caregiver than secure children, one may observe children being clingy or seeking comfort and once distressed they are not easily comforted. Insecure–avoidant children may appear somewhat indifferent towards their caregiver and very independent since they do not tend to physically illustrate distress. However, when looking at physiological tests insecure–avoidant children tend to illustrate higher levels of distress than any other children. Furthermore, when analyzing attachment relationships it is important to note that predictors of attachment differ between mothers and fathers. Recent research has also presented how classic measures of attachment security may not be capturing fathers parenting variability perhaps due to difference in predictors. Therefore, our research specifically focused in developing a proper set of scales that would properly measure both mothers and fathers parenting variability.

Thereafter, Dr. Olofson gave us the NICHD, which is the gold-standard set of measures for assessing attachment security. Kirby and I watched and coded multiple videos using the NICHD scale until we reached good inner rater reliability and essentially felt comfortable with the process of coding. In these videos the parent and child went throughout a structured scenario in which the parent had to help their child find the correct key to open a transparent box where the children’s desired toy was stored. The coding process was very tedious, as we would choose a scale then watch every video a total of four times before coding for each specific dimensions within the scale such as intrusiveness or sensitivity. Kirby and I would code multiple videos each day and reconvene the following morning long with Dr. Olofson to discuss our experience coding. After practically mastering the NICHD scale, our research group had the opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Sarah Schoppe–Sullivan from the Ohio State University’s developmental program. On our visit we focused in communicating about previous scales that we had worked with, pin pointing their pros and cons along with any particular details that would aid our development of a new scale. With the permission of fellow researchers, Dr. Olofson and Dr. Schoppe–Sullivan developed the Wabash-OSU Scales of Challenge & Overprotectiveness. CPB refers to the extent to which the parent encourages the child to go outside of their comfort-zone and push the limits of their current ability; our research group analyzed both physical and expressive CPB. While overprotection refers to the extent to which the parent conveys over – exaggerated worry or concern for the child’s wellbeing and safety. Similarly to CPB, researchers coded for physical and expressive overprotection. Kirby and I had the chance to observe and code new set of videos utilizing the Wabash-OSU scales, this was extremely interesting since we were finally able to code parent-child interactions utilizing a set of measurements that we helped develop.

The last part of the summer internship consisted of waiting to get approved for the IRB through the Ohio State University Psychology department. However, Dr. Olofson did not just give us the rest of the summer off, instead he encouraged us to continue reading about relatable developmental topics such as temperament, emotion regulation, etc. Next Dr. Olofson challenged Kirby and I to modify the transparent box task so we can eventually code the task utilizing the Wabash-OSU scales. This may have been the most difficult part of the internship since modifying the task not only forced us to think creatively but also to work under unfamiliar areas such as woodwork. Kirby and I had to build 16×16 wooden boxes in which children would be climbing. This was all due to the modifications done to the transparent box task as we hoped to capture CPB and overprotectiveness. Furthermore, we also had to arrange camera angles and select the different type of cameras that would be used to record the new task. Throughout the whole process of modifying the transparent box task, Kirby and I continuously experienced something new from learning how to cut plywood to identifying recording errors. This was an extremely interesting experience and once again reminded me of the careful work that goes in psychology since every tiny detail made a difference when designing the new task.

Initially I did not know what to expect coming into a summer internship at Wabash College, especially since this was my first research-based internship. However, I knew that doing research was what I wanted to focus on this previous summer and from the first day on the job the overall experience was great. I immediately felt an intrinsic motivation to continue working and learning about our attachment research. I can confidently state that I learned a great range of skills throughout my summer internship at Wabash College. Since we learned essential research skills such as designing and managing a psychological experiment to learning how to cut and sand plywood. Furthermore, I believe these skills will help me throughout the rest of my academic and professional career as I plan to attend The University of Texas in El Paso for their clinical psychology master’s program. Clearly, the summer internship will look great in my resume but more importantly it gives me the confidence and experience for the following step in my career.

I would like to thank Dr. Olofson and the Psychology Department of Wabash College for this amazing experience. I would also like to thank the donors, without their generous contribution my and many fellow classmates research experiences’ may not have been possible.

 

Summer research – Bui ’18

Tung Bui ’18 spent his summer conducting research off campus at the University of Michigan, and at the University of Oregon, and his internships were supported by a grant from Wabash College’s Dill Fund:

After completing a literature review on the emotion of envy for an independent study in the spring semester of 2017 at Wabash College, I was motivated to carry on my research project into the summer. Previous researchers have done intensive work on what factors, both intrinsic and extrinsic, lead to an envious state. There have also been findings with respect to behavioral and emotional consequences of envy. However, the field has not seen much work regarding how to attenuate the emotion and forestall the undesirable outcomes.

With great thanks to the Dill Grant, I was able to travel to Ann Arbor and spend roughly a month to carry out a the project. Working in the laboratory of Dr. Garcia at the University of Michigan, we mapped out the study design to test a potential alleviating effect of attribution on envy. We started with asking online participants (i.e., MTurkers) to imagine a friend who outperformed them in some domains then to write about (I) what advantages their friends had, or (II) what disadvantages they had that might leave them in an inferior position. This phase of the project was intended to serve as a pilot test for the envy (i.e., writing about a friend) and attribution (i.e., writing about one’s own disadvantaged or a friend’s disadvantages) manipulations. We ended with a significant result for the writing stimulus to induce an envious state. The writing paradigm for attribution, nevertheless, did not turn out efficacious.

We dedicated the second round of pilot tests to a disparate manipulation of attribution. We induced attributions by asking participants to indicate how much they agreed with two statements that attributed their low performance to either (a) their friends’ situational advantages (i.e., family’s financial support, better education, social connections), or (b) their friends’ dispositional advantages (i.e., hard work, boldness, self-confidence). Making situational attributions significantly predicted the level of envy in the subjects, nonetheless, in a reversed direction compared to our hypothesis; in other words, the more participants disagreed with the situational attributions, the less envious they felt of their friends.

In interpreting the results, we realized there could be a few alternative explanations for the observed relation. Either being allowed to write about whatever or asked to indicate agreement with prepared statements, that could be the reasons why their friends outperformed them, the participants could have been influenced by potential advantages that they had not thought of initially but now started pondering upon. In the same line of reasoning, the participants could have disagreed with the statements simply because the majority of what they were thinking about did not correspond to the domain(s) in which they were initially envious of their friends.

Even though my research internship at Michigan ended shortly after this third phase, I have continued to receive support, both professional and financial, from Dr. Garcia’s lab since then. The next step will be to utilize an in-lab design to keep participants focused on specific attributions and record their levels of envy via another measure.

Leaving Michigan, I arrived shortly in Eugene to commence my second research experience in Dr. Hodges’s Social Cognition lab. The project under analysis related itself to the mediation effect of similarity on the relation between stereotypes and empathic accuracy, i.e., how the extent to which the readers’ interpretations of the targets’ thoughts were similar to what the targets actually reported, affected the accuracy of using stereotypes in reading thoughts. I was trained and given plenty opportunities to work on coding skills in such studies.

In another part, I handled organizing data for multi-level model regressions. This analysis has recently risen as a powerful tool in counting for multiple error terms, aka. confounding variables, in perplexed relational models. For example, the effect of using stereotypes about middle easterners in conjecturing their thoughts was not a straight relation in which the prevalence of stereotypes predicted interpretation accuracy. Organizing raters’ ratings was essential to quantifying the hypotheses into a meaningful multi-level model.

In addition, I attended weekly sessions that focused on a review paper of empathic accuracy and shared reality. We went through several stages of pulling together a broad image of a psychological construct that has been under intensive research. Relevant work was scrutinized for useful findings; varied findings were then grouped properly to create revealing categories; novel ideas and appealing suggestions were tagged in accordingly. Intermittent discussions served to induce efficient brainstorming and allowed research assistants to contribute their own viewpoints on the subject.

My summer concluded on such a good term, having provided me with valuable professional development. I would like to thank the Psychology Department of Wabash College for their academic support, the Dill Grant for the financial support, and the University of Michigan and the University of Oregon for their wonderful summer research internships.

Summer research – Kazahaya ’18

Senior Niki Kazahaya ’18  and Junior Neil Dittmann ’19 spent part of their summer conducting research with Dr. Schmitzer-Torbert, and the research expenses for his project with humans was supported by donations from the 2017 Day of Giving:

After completing an independent research project with Professor Schmitzer-Torbert during my freshman year, I was excited to intern again in his laboratory this summer. Working alongside fellow psychology major, Neil Dittmann ’19, we completed two projects that examined learning and memory in both a human and animal model. More specifically, we looked at the relationship between mindfulness, stress, and hippocampus-dependent navigation strategies in an online human sample. In the animal model, we examined spatial and stimulus-response strategies in rats navigating a maze.

While animals and humans can exhibit different forms of navigation, two techniques tend to be the most prevalent, stimulus-response and place strategies. In a stimulus-response, or simply response, strategy, animals learn to display a certain behavior as a reaction to a particular stimulus. Greater activity in the caudate nucleus of the brain has been found to be associated with acquisition of response strategies (Packard, Hirsh, & White, 1989; Packard & McGaugh, 1996). On the other hand, place strategy is when animals can learn the location of a particular object using spatial cues. Several studies have found that the hippocampus is a necessary component for the development of place learning (Chang & Gold, 2003; O’Keefe & Conway, 1980; Packard & McGaugh, 1996).

In the human study, our primary focus was to examine the relationship between mindfulness and hippocampus-dependent, or place, strategies. Mindfulness is described as one’s ability to be conscious of his/her surroundings without being overly reactive or judgmental of the present moment. Because mindfulness and volume of the hippocampus tend to be positively related (Lu, Song, Xu, Wang, Li, & Liu, 2014), we predicted that participants with greater mindfulness were more likely to use a place strategy when navigating a virtual environment. Previous research has also found that mindfulness and stress tend to be negatively correlated. As a result, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) techniques have gained considerable attention as an effective method to combat stress and anxiety. A second objective of our research was to determine if an MBSR intervention in a high-stress sample of adults could lead to the adoption of more place strategies.

To test our hypotheses, we recruited young and middle-aged participants through Amazon Mechanical Turk to complete a virtual eight-arm radial-maze, which can be solved using either response or spatial strategies. After the virtual maze task, participants filled out a survey about how they navigated through the environment. Neil and I were responsible for reading these surveys and determining if participants were relying on a spatial or response strategy, and then testing if adults reporting high-stress and low-mindfulness were less likely to use a spatial strategy.

During the other half of the internship, Neil and I continued on a research project from our PSY-233 Behavioral Neuroscience class. A previous study by Packard and McGaugh (1996) examined spatial and place strategies by training rats to obtain a food reward in a plus-shaped maze. With one arm closed off to form a T-shaped maze, rats were trained to find food placed in one arm of the T. During the training phase, the rat began and retrieved food from the same locations. On a probe trial, rats were placed in arm opposite to the starting location. If the rat could accurately locate the reward, it was demonstrating a place strategy. Conversely, if the rat turned in the same direction as it did in the training phase, it was navigating via a response strategy.

However, the experimental paradigm used in Packard and McGaugh (1996) may be limited. When conducting a probe trial in a plus-shaped maze, it is difficult to confirm that animals are relying specifically on either a place or response strategy, as any choice made by the animal, even a random search, counts as a strategy. When approaching the food reward, rats were only able to turn in two directions. As a result, the rats have no other choice than to exhibit either a response or place strategy.

To address this issue, we conducted a study similar to that of Packard and McGaugh (1996). However, we introduced a new form of the maze design that included other areas where the rat could travel during a probe trial, using a symmetrical maze with four starting locations and four goal locations. Most of our work this summer involved testing normal rats and two rats with hippocampal damage on this new maze, and Neil and I were responsible for training the rats, recording the training sessions, and tracking their paths on a Matlab program designed by Professor Schmitzer-Torbert.

This summer has been an incredibly rewarding and formative experience. I especially enjoyed the breadth and range of topics we covered. While our internship was divided into two main projects, we touched on many other areas, such as computer game design, ethical treatment of animals, coding in Matlab, and reading/writing scientific literature. However, the best aspect of our internship was the ability to work extremely closely with an expert like Professor Schmitzer-Torbert. While Neil and I have had previous classes with Professor Schmitzer-Torbert, the internship allowed for much closer collaboration and mentorship with our professor.

I would like to thank the Wabash College Psychology Department, Professor Schmitzer-Torbert, and Neil Dittmann ’19. I am also extremely grateful to all the donors from the Wabash College Day of Giving on April 19th. Because of your contributions, Professor Schmitzer-Torbert, Neil, and I will be able to present our research Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting and continue our work in the fall semester.

#OneWabash

To support our Psychology students simply select
Psych when making your gift.

Today we are #OneWabash! If you aren’t already aware, Wabash is having another important day today and it would be great for you to join me in supporting the College.

Nigel Dao ’18 presenting at the 2016 Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting in San Diego

Let’s show our strength as #OneWabash by making a gift today. With your help, Wabash will reach important benchmarks that will enable us to leverage $400,000 in lead challenge gifts. Our goal is to receive 3,419 gifts on 4.19. Doing so will have a lasting impact on our College.

In Psychology, the donations we received last year let us send two students, Nigel Dao ’18 and Carson Powell ’17, to San Diego in November to the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting. Both Nigel and Carson presented in a poster session, describing the results of their summer research projects (done with Dr. Schmitzer-Torbert and Dr. Gunther, respectively). This was a great experience for both students, who are interested in careers in medicine and neuroscience research, and it would not have been possible without your help!

Today, we are raising funds to support four more students who will be conducting research this summer: Kirby Cox ’18, Alexiz Arellano ’18, Niki Kazahaya ’18 and Neil Dittmann ’19. Each student has received a paid internship position, and will be supported by Wabash College. However, the students are planning research projects that will require additional funds to be successful: Kirby and Alexiz will travel with Dr. Olofson to Ohio this summer to work at the Ohio State University, while Niki and Neil will be working with Dr. Schmitzer-Torbert to test the relationship between mindfulness and memory in a large online sample. Funds raised today will cover travel expenses and participant reimbursement costs for these projects, which will be critical for these young men to complete their summer research. We think that this will be an excellent opportunity for our students, hope you will consider donating to the Special Psychology Fund today to support them and other Psychology students.

And, for every gift made to the Special Psychology Fund, the Psychology faculty will match $10 dollars up to $850!  To support Wabash and our Psychology students, when making your gift at www.wabash.edu/419, simply select Psych from the drop‐down menu.

Join us as #OneWabash! Support Wabash students and encourage others to do the same!

Best wishes, and thank you again for your support,

Neil Schmitzer-Torbert
Daniel F. Evans Associate Professor in Social Sciences

Psychology Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WabashPsych

Celebration of Student Research 2017

Nigel Dao ’18 presenting at the 2016 Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting in San Diego

At the 17th annual Celebration of Student Research, Scholarship and Creativity, (Friday, January 27th, from 1-4pm in Detchon International Hall), Psychology major Nigel Dao ’18 and minor Carson Powell ’17 will present the results of their summer research projects with Drs. Schmitzer-Torbert and Gunther, respectively. Students from Psychology 202 (Christopher Wilson, Tung Bui, Zack Havlin, Neil Dittman, Luke Rowles and Kaleb Hobgood) will present on the results of their research on the relationship between trait mindfulness and mental health, false memory and creative problem solving. From across the college, we will also see presentations from several students from Biology, Chemistry and Theater on topics ranging from hypothalamic neurons to turtle temperament, all of which should be of great interest to students studying psychology and/or neuroscience!

Below, we’ve tried to gather a list of the presentations that are most relevant to Psychology students and students interested in Neuroscience, but we would encourage you to try to see a bit of everything at the Celebration! If you happen to be on campus, we hope to see you at the Celebration this year, and we are very impressed with the wide range of work that our students have done over the last year!

Posters – 1-2:30PM – Detchon International Hall
#25 Carson Powell Full-field vs. Grating Stimuli to Reveal Non-Cardinal Colors
#27 William Robinson Coloration and Box Turtle Boldness
#31 Christopher Wilson Mindfulness and Cognitive Skills: How Facets of Mindfulness Relate to Insight Problem Solving and other Cognitive Abilities
Posters – 2:30-4PM – Detchon International Hall
#2 Tung Bui, Kaleb Hobgood & Neil Dittmann The Relationship between Trait Mindfulness, Specific Cognitive Skills and Health Outcomes: Mediation by Decentering
#6 Nigel Dao Online Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program and the use of Hippocampal-Dependent Spatial Navigation
#14 Zack Havlin & Luke Rowles Trait Mindfulness and Cognition: Relationship to False Memory
#26 Andrew Puente The Effect of Polyunsaturation on Transmembrane Protein Interactions

Talks

1:30PM Detchon 112 Bilal Jawed Representations of Mental Illness in the Works of Horacio Quiroga
1:30PM Detchon 209 Zachery Anderson Analyzing the Relationship between Theater and Autism Spectrum Disorder
2:10PM Detchon 111 Noah Levi Understanding the Link between Obesity and Infertility: Palmitic Acid as an Inducer of Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress in Hypothalamic Neurons
3:00PM Detchon 111 Free Kashon Ecological Correlates of Variation in Boldness in a Box Turtle Population