Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Katrina Wong L&S Biological Sciences

Auditory Learning in the Prefrontal Cortex in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairments in communication and atypical sensory responsivity. Recent research using Cntnap2 knock-out mice, a strain commonly used to investigate ASD, has established potential neural mechanisms underlying altered learning performance, such as behavioral flexibility and neural excitability. The Wilbrecht lab has previously identified the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC) as a hub for cognitive flexibility and maturation during adolescence. Understanding how ASD affects the development of the dmPFC is therefore essential. This project explores the neural basis of learning in adolescent and adult Cntnap2 knock-out mice using two-photon calcium imaging in the dmPFC. Differences in neural representations of auditory perceptual learning tasks between ASD and wild-type mice models will be examined. By analyzing neural synchronization and flexibility, as well as patterns in excitability, this project aims to demonstrate how Cntnap2 alters the neural mechanisms of perceptual learning in the dmPFC. This research will provide a valuable framework for understanding how ASD affects the organization of cortical circuits fundamental for learning in humans.

Message To Sponsor

I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to my donor for granting me the opportunity to pursue an independent research project on autism spectrum disorder. This fellowship has been instrumental in allowing me to acquire crucial lab skills, build confidence in my research abilities, and take on new challenges. I look forward to applying the knowledge and perseverance I have gained to my future work in science. Thank you once again for your generous support.
Major: Molecular and Cell Biology (Neurobiology); Psychology
Mentor: Linda Wilbrecht
Sponsor: Pergo Fund
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