Written Assignment (Due Week 9)

Students will receive the abstract of a research paper and will write a brief report (no more than 1200 words) identifying the authors' hypothesis or the question they set out to address and describing the key experiment and control experiment. Experimental design, type of preparation, and appropriate controls should be discussed. Describe any key experiment or control experiment that is missing.

Oral Presentation (Due in the Final Class)

Students will be provided with preliminary data about a specific topic related to learning and memory. Each student will prepare and present an oral presentation about how they would advance this knowledge by asking specific questions and providing experimental strategies that would address those questions.

A novel gene, DRXY10, has recently been identified in a screen for activity-regulated genes. Independently, DRXY10 was also identified in a genome-wide association study as a gene linked to human memory performance. Notably, one allele of DRXY10 has a G--> A substitution in its coding sequence, which changes amino acid 910 from Ser--> Lysine. Human carriers of the G--> A allele have decreased performance on spatial learning tasks. DRXY10 is a cytosolic protein that interacts with the protein product of the immediate early gene Arc, which we discussed in Week 4 in the Chowdhury et al. article.

Students are asked to design three experiments to investigate the potential role of DRXY10 in learning and memory, synaptic plasticity, or experience-dependent plasticity. Students will describe their ideas to the class in a 15-minute Powerpoint presentation and will also prepare a 1-page handout explaining their proposed experiments.

Each presentation should consist of 6–8 slides. The first slide should describe the question you are addressing and what information prompted you to investigate your hypothesis. The next few slides should describe the three experiments you propose to conduct. You should explicitly state your reasons for designing the experiments the way that you have, what controls you will use, and what information you expect to obtain. Share with us how you will evaluate the possible experimental outcomes.

Students are encouraged to think about this assignment throughout the course and make note of experimental strategies discussed each week.