Plexon Research Spotlight

Plexon Research Spotlight - Aqilah McCane

Ph.D., Moghaddam Lab, Oregon Health & Science University


What type of neuroscience research do you do and what got you interested in this research?

Currently, I am investigating the impact of adolescent alcohol exposures on cortical-striatal network dynamics. My graduate school training was in rodent models of alcohol use disorder, while my post-doctoral training has focused on adolescence and the physiological correlates of age-dependent differences in associative learning. These two complementary skills have culminated in projects investigating adolescent markers of addiction vulnerability.

What challenges did you encounter along the way, and how did you overcome these challenges?

Starting graduate school I had never written a program, but by the end of graduate school, I had learned how to program behavioral tasks in med associates and write codes to analyze data in Matlab and R. I credit good mentorship and many tireless hours of hands-on training from one of my mentors, Dr. Christopher Lapish, as well as my own perseverance in overcoming these challenges. I essentially learned that there is nothing I am incapable of learning, given time and training. It has instilled a confidence in me to tackle new skills. I continue to seek training to refine my coding skills and expand upon my understanding of computational neuroscience. Acknowledging that continued training will very much be a part of my journey to independence has helped me overcome challenges, as well as made me a better scientist.

What new technique do you think will have the greatest impact on Neuroscience research and how do you plan to apply this to your research?

I am a behavioral neuroscientist and my interests are simple. What are the neuronal underpinnings of typical and aberrant behavior? There are a myriad of sexy techniques which can be employed in conjunction to investigate neural physiology but I think that the greatest impact on neuroscience research will come from carefully designed and implemented behavioral tasks. I think we have moved beyond reporting behavior with a superficial lens. Techniques such as deep lab cut, together with thoughtful behavior and techniques to record neural activity in vivo will have the greatest impact on neuroscience research. I also think the recent move to include both male and female subjects has challenged our ability to interpret sex differences and utilization of the aforementioned combined techniques, together with sex-inclusive studies will surely advance the field.

Did you integrate multiple techniques into your research? Such as electrophysiology and optogenetics. If so, can you describe the types of studies you used this integration for?

Currently, I use in vivo electrophysiology and behavior to probe my scientific questions. However, in the future, I plan to use both chemogenetic and optogenetic techniques in conjunction with in vivo electrophysiology recordings to isolate the impact of cell-specific populations on both behavior and physiology.

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