SICB 2017: How Does Neural Activation in Response to a Video Compare to Seeing a Real Lizard?

Maria Jaramillo with her poster, doing her best anole impersonation.

Maria Jaramillo with her poster, doing her best anole impersonation.

Behavior can be extremely variable, even within a species. To control for this inherent variability while assessing individual responses to a visual stimulus, some researchers have begun using videos in their experiments. Maria Jaramillo, an undergraduate student in Michele Johnson’s lab, is curious about how anoles process visual information and if videos and live encounters are processed similarly in the brain. On Saturday, Maria provided us with an update of her work.

For this experiment, Maria used 40 adult male A. carolinensis which were exposed to one of four treatments for 15 minutes: 1) another live anole, free to display; 2) a looped video of an anole, which displayed for about 30 seconds, waited 15 seconds, then displayed again; 3) a scrambled version of the previous video; 4) or a control video of a lizard perch. She recorded the behavior of these lizards, then sacrificed them in order to collect their brains.

Maria found that the lizards paid close attention to the live anole, the video of the anole, and the scrambled anole video, but significantly less attention to the control video. Interestingly, though, males displayed significantly less to the scrambled and control videos than to the live anole and the normal video.

Next, Maria will use immunocytochemistry to quantify c-fos+ neurons in five brain regions associated with visual processing and the social behavior network. c-fos is an immediate early gene that is transcribed when neurons are activated, and c-fos+ neurons were likely stimulated in response to the visual stimuli Maria presented. She will then use the ratio of ­c-fos+ neurons to total number of neurons in that brain region to quantify neural activity in the five brain regions and see how these differ between stimulus treatments.

This is really exciting work and we can’t wait to see the end result!

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