Monday, July 8, 2013

Phase III: Day 1 - Training

Today was the first day of training for the phase III test rats. During this phase we subjected the test animals to fifteen trials in the Davis Rigs in order to train the animals to lick while in the rigs. Each rig contained three bottles containing water, 2 millimolar sucrose, and 2 millimolar glucose.

Each of the twelve rats were trained today, and each of them licked for 50-70% of the trials. We have three more training days to get these rats to lick for each of the trials.

- Deep

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Summary of Phase II

Apologizes for not updating this blog more often. Phase II of the experiment has just been completed, and Phase III will begin starting tomorrow. Now that this phase is complete let's see what we did and accomplished.

Step 1: The rats were trained. Training the rats is essentially putting the rats into the Davis Rigs, a device designed to precisely count the number of licks a rat does at any given trial. The training period is used to teach the rats they when they are inside the rig they are expected to lick. This will give us better data later on when the actual taste trials are conducted. The rats are given water and 0.2 molar sucrose solution and placed in the rigs over 30 trials. These training days lasted about four days to ensure the test rats will be properly trained.

Step 2: Surgery. The anti-anxiety drug must be injected into a particular region of the rat's brain. In order to inject the drug the test rats must undergo brain surgery in order to place the cannulas into the rats' brains. The process requires a small incision down the top of the rats head. The area is cleaned to reveal the top of the rat's skull. Using a measuring tool the rat's skull is properly aligned so that the cannulas can be placed into the appropriate region of the rat's brain. After that 6 holes are drilled into the skull, two at the cannula sites and four closer to the rats eyes to hold the screws. Next, a single cannula is placed into the rat's brain and cement is placed in order to keep the cannula in place. Next the second cannula is placed into the rat's brain, and once the cement is completely dry the rat is left to recover for a couple of days.

Step 3: Taste Trials. Once the rats have recovered the actual taste trials can be conducted. The rats have either the drug or a control substance (cerebral spinal fluid) injected into their brains. Once the appropriate substance has been injected the rats are placed in the Davis rigs for the trial. The rats are given aqueous solutions containing various concentrations of sodium chloride, quinine, and citric acid in order to test salty, bitter, and sour tastes. The rats under go four trials over the course of a week and a half in order to get proper data.

Step 4: Perfusion. Once the trials are complete the rats must be perfused and the brains must be removed in order to do proper histology on the rats. Formalin is injected into the rat in order to replace the blood and preserve the brain. Once the brain is removed it is placed in a formalin solution and preserved in a chilled environment.

That is the summary of phase II. I'll give you more frequent updates on Phase III, the final phase for this summer.

- Deep Sangani

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Hello! My name is Deep Sangani, and I am one of the student researchers working with Dr. Dave Pittman this summer. I am a rising senior majoring in chemistry and biology.

Originally, I am from Loris, South Carolina and am currently applying to medical schools. Fun fact: I'm going to be blogging for you this summer!

Now let me introduce the rest of the student researchers!

This is Jayce O'Shields. He is from Pearl, Mississippi and will be a Junior in the fall. He is a biology and humanities major with a concentration in gender studies. He has plans to go to medical school and plans to pursue a career in family medicine, oncology, or cardiology with the hopes of working as a general physician abroad with the Peace Corps. He enjoys researching personal genealogy and reading Dan Brown novels.

This is Savanah Atkins! She is from Sumter, South Carolina and will be a sophomore. She is currently choosing between biology and psychology and wants to go into forensics as a career. She has been working with Dr. Pittman since January and loves watching Intervention. Fun fact: She is the number one painter in SC in 2010 (fancy!)

Together we will keep you posted on all of our research activities for the summer. Until next time!

- Deep

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Summer 2013 Research Objectives

This summer the Pittman Lab at Wofford College is investigating the effect of injecting chlordiazepoxide (CDP), a benzodiazepine GABA-A agonist), directly into the parabrachial nucleus (PBN) of rats on their ability to lick to taste solutions during brief-access trials.
This is a diagram of the ascending taste signaling pathway from a rat’s mouth to its taste centers of the brain. We are limiting the effect of the drug to the PBN area of the hindbrain. This is an area that we think is responsible to modifying the taste signal as it travels up to the taste perception area of the brain. And we think that the neurotransmitter GABA is involved in the modification of the taste signal.

This summer the Baird Lab at Amherst College is screening several different GABA-A agonist and antagonist chemicals that are more selective than the CDP, benzodiazepine. Once we can determine the effectiveness of the agonist and antagonist chemicals, we will try to block the effect of CDP with the antagonist drugs injected directly into the PBN in the rat’s brain.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Summer 2013 - Research @ Wofford & Amherst

This summer we are starting our collaborative joint research projects with students working in the Pittman Lab at Wofford College and the Baird Lab at Amherst. Stay tuned for updates on the activity in each laboratory!  - Dr. Pittman

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

And it begins!

Happy New Year!  Yesterday and today, I'm in Amherst Mass. learning a new surgical technique from my colleague Dr. JP Baird.  Stereotaxic placement of bilateral cannulas into the parabrachial nucleus (PBN) in rats.  This will allow us to deliver GABA-A agonists directly into the PBN area of the brain to analyze the role of GABA receptors in shaping palatibility of tastes. 

I will bring the technique back to the Pittman lab at Wofford and teach my students how to implant the cannulas during the January Interim term so we can start experiements this spring!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Gearing up for January research!

This fall a group of students completed their senior research thesis project examining the influence of benzodiazepines on intake of caloric and non-caloric sweeteners.  They assessed rat licking patterns in both long-term (1 hr) and brief-access (30-60 s) duration tests.  Benzodiazepines continue to affect rat consumption patterns in ways that appear to indicate enhanced palatability of the tastants.  We are currently planing for experiments in January 2013 that will begin to examine potential targets for benzodiazepine actions in the brain.