Mazes for Days

A day in the life of the Bilbo lab usually has some routine tasks that I do every day and then usually I learn a new lab procedure. For instance, in the morning I fill syringes full of ethanol for the drinking in the dark experiment (DID) we’ll do by 3 later in the day. Then I check on the mice’s water bottles, and every week I get to weigh them. After these things get done, I usually find Julia, my mentor, and I get to learn how to do a different protocol that she’s using for one of the projects she’s working on. For instance, over the past week, we’ve been running behavioral tests on the mice we’ve been working with for our DID experiment. The first test we did was an elevated plus-maze. This is a way to quantify the anxiety response in mice. The maze is in the shape of a cross, two arms have walls that enclose them and the other two are open. We put a mouse in the center then record what they do. The more time spent in the enclosed arms, the more anxious the mice are.

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Next, we did another test called the Barnes maze. This maze is a circular structure that has holes around the edges. One of the holes is an escape hole that the mouse goes into. We designate which hole we want that to be, then we place the mouse in the center of the circle and record how much time it takes them to find the hole. They then get to do this again 3 times. Now, this maze tests the mice’s memory because you conduct the test again the next day. Using the same escape hole, we use the same procedure, and hopefully, the mice remember where the hole was from yesterday. On the third day you switch it up, now the only thing you change is where the escape hole is. Typically, the mice go to the previous escape hole first because that’s what they remember and then it takes them some time to figure out where the new escape hole is. Since we have been running behavioral tests, the mice haven’t been drinking during their dark cycle, but usually, we give some of the mice ethanol and record how much they drink over 2 hours 3 days a week and 4 hours on Thursday. I’ve even gotten to run DID by myself. After recording the data in Julia’s lab notebook, I plug in the previous week’s data into excel and then plug the values into some statistical software that creates different graphs. 

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I like that on a day-to-day basis, I’ve settled into a routine with some of my tasks and I feel pretty confident about doing them by myself. But I also enjoy how almost every day, I’m learning how to do something new, and I feel like at the end of the program I will have gained a lot of new skills.

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