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The neural mechanisms of social buffering

In many social animals, including humans, social interactions can sometimes reduce stress responses. This “social buffering” can have profound impacts on stress resilience, disease, reproduction, and behavior. Our current projects have two central aims: 1) describe how social stimuli affect the recovery from environmental stressors; and 2) evaluate the role of a specific neurochemical system (oxytocin and its receptors) in mediating social buffering.

Pharmacology and Social Context

Many social behaviors are sensitive to pharmacological manipulation, but it is unclear how social interactions may modulate pharmacological responses. The zebrafish is an increasingly popular species within toxicology and neurotoxicology; only a few studies have examined how social stimuli influence a drug’s effects on physiology and behavior. We are currently investigating whether a stimulant (caffeine) alters behavior differently in isolated fish compared to non-isolated fish. 

Tracking Animal Movement with Open-Source Software

Tracking software allows us to quantify many behavioral variables (e.g., location, speed) from a video both quickly and with minimal variation between observers. We are currently developing and fine-tuning tracking protocols.

See “page 2” to read a bit about Leah’s previous research

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