Understanding the normal aging brain so that the puzzle of Alzheimer's can be solved

Project number: 
McDonald/Watt Projects
Academic year: 
Project: This project is designed to improve the ability to collect high density cellular recordings of the brains of awake, freely behaving animals and to develop methods for experimental control of the many variables. As such, the project envisions the team to research, design, and build a select set of mechanical, electronic control, sensing and telemetry solutions to advance the study. These new attributes will be utilized within the mechanical, electronic, and telemetry systems that currently exist – the Instantaneous Cue Rotation (ICR) arena.
Objectives for this project in rank order of desirability/feasibility:
1. Design and build/test an open field system platform for utilization within the existing ICR enclosure. This addition to the ICR is necessary to obtain a wider variety of the brain cell firing patterns of the entorhinal cortex grid cells, to be used in comparison to the brain cell firing when the rat is on the existing circular track.
2. Design, construct and test mechanical and sensing improvements to the system, for the control of the robot, and for delivering food reward in the open field environment.
3. Investigate, develop, construct and test a methodology to reduce the weight of the apparatus carrying the electrodes that the rat carries on its head. This is envisioned as a tethered recording system to interface with the current data acquisition system. Boundary conditions: does not require a battery, nor add weight to the rat’s current load, and allows for mobility of the rat. Secondly, (separately) develop a “backpack” solution to carrying the battery for the existing transmitter (now on the head of the rat) – that is, move the battery to a backpack without compromising movement of the rat.
4. Possible (stretch goal) investigation of methods of improving mass and physical dimensions (weight, momentum or torque issues) for the electronics and battery pack now powering the telemetered transmitter system worn by the rat.

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