Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Anna Jahng L&S Biological Sciences

Early Partial Reinforcement Learning on Cognitive Flexibility of ASD

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability impacting 1 in 100 children. Pharmaceutical interventions exist for ASD but are cautioned due to adverse side effects, such as sedation and weight gain, emphasizing the importance of research into non-invasive therapies. Over the past decade, scientists have identified numerous ASD risk genes, including Tsc2. Past research from Wilbrecht lab showed that Tsc2 mutant mice have an initial gain of function in learning in an odor-based reinforcement learning task when the schedule is deterministic (100% reward for each correct action). Importantly, the same mice have decreased flexibility later in the task when stimulus-action pairs are reversed. With such results, I pondered about the impacts on their performance during the reversal phase if rewards were given 80% of each correct action instead of 100%. Therefore, through my SURF project, I intend to explore the impact of a partial reinforcement training schedule (80% reward for each correct action) on Tsc2 mutant mice. Findings from this research can pave new paths for non-invasive interventions for ASD, implementing therapies with partial reinforcement to heighten flexibility.

Message To Sponsor

I hope to express my utmost appreciation to you for your generosity in supporting my research endeavors aimed at furthering our understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and advancing the development of non-invasive interventions for ASD. Having previously served as a volunteer at a disability center, your support has enabled me to expand my advocacy for ASD through diverse avenues, including research. Thank you so much for believing in the potential of my research and I deeply appreciate your invaluable support to make my research a reality!
Major: Molecular and Cellular Biology
Mentor: Juliana Chase
Sponsor: Leadership Fund
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