Congratulation to all participants of the symposium for giving great presentations, with special congratulations to the winners:


SSS Winners (2016).JPG


1st place: Elani Bykowski

2nd place: Janet Poplawski

3rd place: Jessica Kuntz

Honourable mention: Clarissa Beke












1. Building Brains and Futures: Improving Executive Function and Emergent Literacy in Children by Developing Adult Ability

Niehaus, C., Harker, A., Raza, S., Carvalho, A., Mendoza, M., Rathwell, B., Halliwell, C., Piquette, N., Gibb, R.


Executive function (EF) and emergent literacy (EL) skills are crucial to childrenís development and future life success.In order to support these skills through parental and early childhood educators (ECE), a curriculum was developed to enhance EF and EL preschool learning in children aged 2-6 and an early childhood program was implemented at two sites, running for a duration of 10 months. Quantitative and qualitative data was collected from the ECE, parents and children as a means to look at developmental growth. Preliminary reports suggest that this program helped improve understanding of the importance of EF and EL skills as well as encouraging the development of these skills in the children participating.


2. Ultrasonic vocalizations as a tool to asses behavioral and developmental abnormalities: Paternal preconception alcohol exposure

Lindsay Amatto, Allonna Harker, Rachel Dombowsky, Fangfang Li, Bryan Kolb, Robbin Gibb


Rodents emit ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) as a means of communication and can be used to elucidate their affective states and environments. USVs follow a typical developmental profile throughout rodentsí lifespan, making them a beneficial neurodevelopmental property to study. It has been observed that exposing specific toxicants to parents prior to conception has caused behavioral and developmental abnormalities in offspring. In this experiment, male rodents were administered alcohol for an entire spermatogenic cycle and then immediately mated. After breeding, these males spent the next spermatogenic cycle without alcohol and were mated again to examine the relevance of temporally varied alcohol exposure and conception on vocalizations. Multiple parameters were then used to analyze the vocalizations of all offspring.



Disease models, Stress, and Addiction


3. Risking all the cheese: do unpredictable rewards lead to addictive behaviour in rats?

Danika Dorchak, Catherine Laskowski, David Euston


Random-ratio (RR) schedules of reinforcement, like those used in slot machines, provide unpredictable rewards versus fixed-ratio (FR) schedules, where the rewards are expected. RR schedules are considered to be more ďaddictiveĒ than FR schedules, but is this why people develop gambling addiction? We examined two groups of rats that received food pellets under different reinforcement schedules over a prolonged period and then measured for addiction-like behaviour. If the RR schedule is inherently addictive, then we expect to see the RR group showing more signs of addiction. While the RR group consistently finished faster than the FR group, they did not show signs of addiction.


4. Early Postnatal Stress Accelerates the Functional Development of the Visual System

Janet Poplawski, Shrianne Ryan, Amanda Weiler, Gerlinde A.S. Metz


Early life stress (ES) has been associated with adverse health outcomes in adulthood. Studies have linked ES to increased risk of schizophrenia, depression, and behavioural disturbances in children. However, little is known about the mechanisms underlying these changes. In this study the functional development of the visual system, the premier model of developmental brain plasticity, was assessed in mice exposed to ES. We found that ES induced accelerated development of the visual system and these changes were associated with maladaptive behaviours throughout life. This research provides insights into the impact of experience on early brain development.


5. Chronic adolescent exposure to THC: analysis of anxiety-related behaviour in rodents using the elevated plus maze and risk-assessment measures

Marisa Lelekach, Jill Sabourin, Serena Jenkins, Rachel Dombowsky, Allonna Harker, Diana Dow-Edwards, Brian Kolb, Robbin Gibb


Marijuana is one of the most widely used drugs among adolescence; a time when over-activation of the endocannabinoid system may cause neurobiological changes that influence the function and behaviour of the adult brain later in life. The current study focuses on the effect of chronic adolescent exposure to THC, the main psychoactive component of marijuana, on anxiety-related behaviour using the elevated-plus maze. Risk-assessment measures were also evaluated, as an additional measure of this behaviour.


6. Long lasting Jet lag: Postnatal shipment stress and its effects on exploratory behaviour

Shawn Whale, Janet Poplawski, Gerlinde A.S. Metz


Stress can act adversely on individuals. Previous studies found negative phenotypical responses to shipment stress, but less has been researched on behavioural effects. Here, we exposed young mice to shipment stress and examined their anxiety-like behaviours during adolescence. The stressed mice traversed less of the center of an open field test and moved through less space than controls. These results suggest that shipment stress decreases exploratory behaviour and may induce anxiety-like behaviours in mice. These findings have important implications for standard procedures involving laboratory animals.



Sensory and Motor Systems


7. Vocalization and Behavioural Coding

Carmalita Robertson, Candace Burke, Sergio Pellis


Rats produce ultrasonic vocalizations that emit differently depending on the animalís age, environmental condition and affective state. Research at the CCBN focused on whether rats made certain vocalizations when expressing certain behaviour. The theory is that ultrasonic communication in rats is used as a way to communicate affective state and organize social communication. Findings show 50kHz calls linked with active behaviours and 22kHz calls correlated to anxiety. Mapping out ultrasonic vocalizations associated behaviours gives insight to the ratís emotional brain. When testing drugs on rats this can suggest effects of the drug onto the rat and explain underlying psychiatric disorders.


8. Ventrally mediated grasps: Is the left hemisphere grasp-to-eat advantage limited to the dorsal stream?

Clarissa Beke, Jason Flindall, Claudia Gonzalez


Results from studies in the Brain in Action lab have shown that the left hemisphere is specialized for grasp-to-eat actions: The right hand is more precise at grasping food with the intention to eat rather than to place. Those results however come from actions executed under visual guidance (dorsal visual stream). The present study investigates whether the right hand advantage for grasp-to-eat actions remains present in delayed, i.e. grasps without vision, conditions (ventral visual stream).


9. Grow with the flow: visual fixations and saccades in dynamic sports environments

Elani Bykowski, Jon Doan


Executing skillful movement requires rapid perception and interpretation of complex visual information. This same information provides provoking cues for people with some neuropathologies, including Parkinson disease. We used vision tracking to determine which visual cues attracted attention. While participants observed still pictures and moving scenes of biking, walking, and ice skating on a stimulus monitor, a stationary eye tracker measured the fixations and saccades of participantsí eyes. Differences in fixation and saccade were also observed for people living with PD.


10. Dissociation of the Reach and Grasp in mice: The Evolutionary Predecessor of the Dual Visuomotor Channel theory?

Jessica Kuntz, Ian Whishaw, Majid Mohajerani

The Dual Visuomotor Channel theory proposes that primate prehension consists of two movements, a Reach and a Grasp. Rodents make similar skilled movements but it is unknown whether they reflect dual channel organization. This study used head-fixed mice in a reaching apparatus to dissociate the two movement components. The Mice used a reach to locate the food and then used a grasp for object purchase demonstrating that the Reach and Grasp are separate. The dissociation supports Dual Channel theory and further suggests that the channels were co-opted for the visual control of reaching in primate.



Learning and Memory

11. The hippocampus is not necessary for cued location or discriminative cue memory in a novel two-platform task in rats.

Deryn LeDuke, Justin Lee, Robert Sutherland


A novel visible two-platform water task (TPWT) was designed to investigate the role of the hippocampus in memory for cue locations and visible cues, and how these types of memory interact. Spatial and visible cue memory acquisition and retrieval were tested in hippocampus-lesioned and sham control Long-Evans rats. Results show that memories for locations and visible cues guide behavior in hippocampal rats, and that spatial navigation strategies overshadow the acquisition and utilization of visible cue memory in controls. These findings contribute to the current body of work that investigates how multiple types of memory to control behavior.


12. Ventral Hippocampus Learning in The Mammalian Brain: An investigation of inhibitory associations on a visual discrimination task and early goal-oriented search strategies on a spatial navigation task

Emily Stuart, Brianna Carrels, Nhung Hong, Robert McDonald


The theory of multiple memory systems proposes that there are separate memory systems within the mammalian brain that process information and influence learning and memory independently. Such systems also influence behavior by interacting with one another either cooperatively or competitively. Although the hippocampus is widely studied within learning and memory literature, the ventral hippocampus is often overlooked as a separate structure that has a distinct function from the dorsal segment within learning and memory processes. For the present study, we further investigated the role of the ventral hippocampus in acquiring a visual discrimination task and a spatial navigation task.


13. Disrupted Circadian Rhythms Impair Spacial Learning and Memory in Fisher Brown Norway Rats Three Months after Initial Disruption

Moore K., Deibel S., Hong N., Mysyk T., McDonald R.


Endogenous circadian rhythms are generated by the brainís master clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus. Healthy circadian rhythms synchronize to the environmental day-night cycle. Disrupted circadian rhythms have been linked to memory impairment by previous research. Here we investigated the influence of disrupted circadian rhythms on spacial learning and memory in fisher brown Norway rats. The environmental day-night cycle was manipulated to disrupt the rodentsí endogenous circadian rhythms. Spacial learning and memory was evaluated during and after circadian rhythm disruption. Animals with disrupted circadian rhythms performed well in the standard water maze, but performed poorly in massed training water maze months later.



New Methods and Technologies


14. Investigation of Dual Channel Theory Using DREADD

Behroo Mirzaagha, Majid Mohajerani


The Dual Channel Theory of reaching proposes that reaching consist of two movements: the Reach, which advances the hand to the target and the Grasp, which shapes the hand for target purchase. This theory proposes that the two channels are comprised of nodes and edges that connect somatosensory to motor cortex, and that inactivation of the channels at any point should produce equivalent impairment in Reach and Grasp. This hypothesis is examined using inhibitory DREADD that temporarily inactivates the function of different cell types. The findings may provide insights to how sensory and motor cortices interact to produce movement.


15. Ringematics: Developing biomechanical measures for a novel neurotherapeutic exercise

Mariko Boulet, Jon Doan


Skating and stickhandling are functionally and physically available to many Canadians living with Parkinsonís disease. Previous research from our lab has shown that these activities led to improvement on clinical and functional tests of upper extremity motor performance for Parkinsonís patients. Ringhandling may be even more comprehensive than stickhandling; however, very little research has been completed on ringette skills thus far. To date, we have tested young adult ringette experts on on-ice ringhandling drills and we hope to use the data collected as the initial stages of introducing ringhandling as a neurotherapeutic exercise method for those living with Parkinsonís disease.


16. How robots localize sound: An exploration of high frequencies used in sound localization

Marko Ilievski, Matthew Tata


Humans are able to localize sounds of any amplitude in any acoustical environment. However, this task has proven to be difficult in the domain of humanoid robots as the acoustics of the environment and external noises can create large uncertainties when localizing. With the use of the iCub humanoid robot, this presentation will demonstrate how uncertain information within the high frequency domain can be compiled over successive head rotations to establish an accurate audio map.