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PSYC2023PONCEDELEON14283 PSYC

Hope Connection 2.0: Evaluating the efficacy of sensory interventions to improve sensory processing in adopted children

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Lauren Ponce de Leon Psychology
Advisor(s): Casey Call Psychology
Location: Third Floor, Table 10, Position 2, 11:30-1:30

In October and November of 2022, TCU’s Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development hosted the Hope Connection 2.0 camp which is a trauma-informed, therapeutic intervention for adoptive families. Children in adoptive families often have histories of trauma which impacts many aspects of their lives. Sensory processing is the mechanism in the brain that manages incoming sensory information and is known to be affected by early experiences with trauma. The Hope Connection 2.0 camp is designed to address many of the effects of trauma, including sensory processing. This study evaluated the efficacy of the Hope Connection 2.0 camp at reducing sensory processing deficits and improving children’s ability to process sensory input. Ten families participated in the camp which took place over two weekends. Parents completed surveys providing information on their children’s capacity for sensory processing prior to attending camp and after attending the final session in November. The information gathered at each time point was then analyzed to determine the change in the child’s ability to process sensory information over time.

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PSYC2023PORTER11078 PSYC

The Impact of Stress and Childhood Environment on Women's Mating Psychology

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Aliza Porter Psychology Katja Cunningham Psychology
Advisor(s): Sarah Hill Psychology
Location: First Floor, Table 1, Position 1, 1:45-3:45

Much research finds that low socioeconomic status (SES) in childhood has a lasting impact on women’s psychosexual development and later sexual behavior. Women from harsh environments have been found to begin puberty earlier, have an earlier sexual debut, and have more sexual partners than women from less stressful, higher SES environments. However, little research has examined the psychological changes within individuals who grew up in low SES communities which would facilitate an accelerated mating strategy in response to stress. Do stressed women from low SES backgrounds show more sexual fluidity and more attraction to a range of gender identities than women who are not stressed out? The current work addresses this gap by first measuring participants’ baseline sexual fluidity and attraction to a range of gender identities through an online survey. Stress was then experimentally manipulated in single, undergraduate women. Participants were randomly assigned to either the stress condition or the control condition of the Trier Social Stress Test, before reporting their sexual fluidity and scope of gender inclusive attraction again. Psychological shifts in mating psychology were examined by assessing the changes in sexual fluidity and gender inclusive attraction before and after the stressor. Results revealed a relationship between experimentally manipulated stress exposure and shifts in mating psychology in women.

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PSYC2023PRESTON57281 PSYC

The Relationship Between Stigma Surrounding Mental Health Disorders and Motivation for Treatment

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Brooke Preston Psychology Francesca Gentea Psychology Liliana Guadagno Psychology Christopher Gutierrez Psychology Ava Harkness Psychology Elizabeth Joseph Psychology Kevin Knight Psychology Madison Milligan Psychology Emily Watts Psychology
Advisor(s): Amanda Wiese Psychology
Location: Basement, Table 1, Position 2, 11:30-1:30

Stigma, or the negative social attitude towards an attribute of a perceived individual (American Psychological Association, 2023), could contribute to treatment avoidance among people experiencing problems related to their mental health. In a previous study, stigma towards mental health treatment had a negative impact on college students' willingness to see psychologists or psychiatrists (Komiya et al., 2000). The current study collected surveys from 59 college undergraduates to describe the internalized stigma felt by those with mental health disorders (MHDs) compared to the level of stigma reported by individuals without a MHD. Results indicated that participants with a diagnosed MHD were more likely ready for treatment than those with an undiagnosed MHD. Treatment readiness and social support were positively correlated, as was problem recognition and MHD stigma (n = 23; ps < .05). These results provide knowledge on how internalized and externalized stigma affects the willingness of individuals who are struggling with MHDs to receive treatment, which can be used to better inform the development of interventions and awareness programs.

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PSYC2023RITZ25631 PSYC

A Child’s Journey: Pregnancy to Adulthood in Four Countries

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Samantha Ritz Psychology
Advisor(s): Casey Call Psychology
Location: Basement, Table 5, Position 3, 1:45-3:45

The purpose of this study is to describe and compare the culturally perceived aspects of childhood, from pregnancy to adulthood, of four different countries. The elements of childhood included in this research relate to different attitudes towards and aspects of childhood events (e.g., childbirth, education, puberty), childhood milestones, rites of passage, and reaching adulthood. The four focus countries include France, the United States of America, India, and Kenya. To obtain data, 4-5 participants from each country were interviewed via Zoom, in-person, or by email. The objective of the research is to explore how childhood experiences vary in different communities and uncover common themes that appear in this period of life. Through these interviews, we (1) gain knowledge on how each country values children and childhood events, (2) step out of the expectations of the western world to evaluate how children globally are raised, and (3) discover common themes amongst various cultures in child rearing.

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PSYC2023ROHM49898 PSYC

Effects of learner behavior on derived stimulus relations

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Ethan Rohm Psychology Anna Petursdottir Psychology
Advisor(s): Anna Petursdottir Psychology
Location: Basement, Table 9, Position 2, 1:45-3:45

Humans, are capable of is finding a relationship between two objects that are otherwise unrelated based on similar shared relationships i.e. if A = B and B = C, then A = C. Despite not being told A = C, a person makes this inference by using their prior experiences and events in a relational network. Previous research has examined effects of learning strategies on this outcome, visualization. In a derived relational task referred to as the intraverbal naming task, participants are taught the names to various images, and then later taught certain names are related. Then participants are tested on the relationships between different pictures in a match to sample test (derived relations). In previous studies, participants who were instructed to visualize the images when taught the words pairs performed better at correctly identifying image relational pairs than non-instructed participants. However, in a recent study participants asked to engage in verbal mnemonics during the word pairing stage, performed equally as well as the visualization group in the match to sample test. The current study seeks further compare the effects of two different instructed behaviors, using more monitorable learning behaviors than previous studies. During the intraverbal phase, one group of participants will be instructed to draw images related to the word pairs; another group will be instructed to complete verbal mnemonic exercises on paper, and a third will receive instructions to simply copy the word pairs from the screen.

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PSYC2023SCHOCK29483 PSYC

Adverse Childhood Environments and Salivary Habituation to Food Stimuli

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Gabriella Schock Psychology Matthew Espinosa Psychology Sarah Hill Psychology
Advisor(s): Sarah Hill Psychology
Location: Basement, Table 8, Position 1, 11:30-1:30

Previous research on life history theory has suggested that childhood environments characterized by low socioeconomic status (SES) and exposure to high levels of unpredictability reliably predict unhealthy eating and greater risk of obesity. While perhaps evolutionarily advantageous in adverse environments, disordered eating behaviors can contribute to obesity risk. For example, higher levels of environmental unpredictability and lower childhood SES predict less mindful eating and more eating in the absence of hunger (EAH) through its impact on body awareness. Furthermore, slower salivary habituation (i.e., decreasing salivation over time) to new foods has been displayed in obese individuals. These previous findings highlight a largely unexplored area addressing the biological mechanisms linking childhood environment and obesity. The current research aimed to explore whether childhood environment leads to EAH due to changes in salivary habituation. We hypothesized that individuals from low SES and highly unpredictable childhood environments would exhibit less salivary habituation to food stimuli. We tested this hypothesis using a sample of 116 female undergraduates. We began by measuring participants’ blood glucose levels to control for physiological hunger levels. Then, we measured participants’ saliva responses to baseline stimuli (0.5 ml water), habituating stimuli (lemon lollipops), and novel stimuli (green lollipops) over the course of 14 trials using the Strongin-Hinsie-Peck technique. In addition to measuring saliva production and blood glucose levels, participants also completed surveys assessing their childhood SES and childhood unpredictability. Consistent with our prediction, the results demonstrated that childhood SES significantly predicted levels of salivary habituation, such that higher levels of childhood SES were associated with greater salivary habituation. Overall, this suggests that women from lower childhood SES environments habituated to the food stimuli less than women from higher childhood SES environments. This relationship may explain why individuals from low childhood SES environments exhibit greater eating in the absence of hunger, and therefore, greater risk for obesity. We discuss the implications of these results in understanding how interactions between early life environments and evolutionary biology influence the development and progression of disordered eating behaviors.

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PSYC2023SHELASHSKA16607 PSYC

Child and Adolescent Wellbeing Scale (CAWS)

Type: Graduate
Author(s): Rayisa Shelashska Psychology Logan Hackney Psychology Danica Knight Psychology
Advisor(s): Danica Knight Psychology
Location: First Floor, Table 3, Position 1, 11:30-1:30

Aim. This study aims to explore the feasibility, acceptability, appropriateness, and reliability of a new observational assessment tool - the Child and Adolescent Wellbeing Scale (CAWS), designed to evaluate socio-emotional health and attachment patterns in children and adolescents.
Background. There is significant interest in child trauma and interventions, and therefore a need for an assessment tool to assess child-level outcomes of trauma-informed interventions, care, and services. The CAWS was created to address this gap, providing a measure rooted in child-caregiver attachment and relational trauma. The CAWS is a 25-item scale with three subscales: Connection, Regulation, and Felt-Safety, which align with Bath’s Three Pillars of Trauma-Informed Care.
Method. Twenty mental health clinicians were trained to use the CAWS during two virtual sessions. Following training, each participant independently observed and rated 15 pre-recorded video interactions between children and their caregivers (totaling 300 independent ratings). Clinicians provided feedback on the CAWS instrument content and format after rating the videotaped interactions; validated measures were used to evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, and appropriateness of the instrument. Reliability estimates were calculated using the generalizability theory.
Results. Ninety-four percent of participants (95% white, 85% female, median age 40.5 years, 100% Master’s degree) reported that administering the CAWS was feasible (i.e., implementable, doable), 100% indicated it was acceptable (i.e., appealing, meets approval), and 100% indicated it was appropriate (i.e., suitable, applicable). Additionally, 100% of participants reported that they would likely use the CAWS in their practice. The CAWS demonstrated excellent inter-rater reliability overall (R1F = .82), was a reliable measurement of systematic change in children (Rc = .94), and reliability emphasized the stable individual difference between children (RKF = .98).
Conclusion. The current study demonstrates the CAWS as a promising evaluation tool with excellent reliability, feasibility, acceptability, and appropriateness. Additional studies should investigate the CAWS instrument's validity further, focusing on its applicability in field settings and its utility in measuring change over time.

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PSYC2023SMITH20235 PSYC

The Relationship between Childhood Environment, Inflammation, and Immune Function

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Sam Smith Smith Psychology
Advisor(s): Sarah Hill Psychology Katja Cunningham Psychology
Location: Basement, Table 4, Position 3, 1:45-3:45

Previous research finds that childhood socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with chronic inflammation and exaggerated inflammatory responses to stress in adulthood. Some researchers have hypothesized that elevated inflammation may function to promote better immune function in environments with greater pathogen and injury stressors, like low SES environments. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between stress, inflammation, and immune function among adults from different childhood environments. Participants reported their childhood SES, completed a baseline measure of their perceived immune function, and provided an intravenous blood sample to measure baseline inflammation. Then, participants were randomly assigned to either the stress of control condition of the Trier Social Stress Test before reporting their perceived immune function and providing another blood sample. Inflammatory response was measured by examining the changes in participants’ levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines taken before and after the stressor. Perceived immune function was measured by examining the changes in participants’ perceived immune function from baseline to after the stressor. A measure of actual immune function was obtained by examining the ability of participants’ white blood cells to destroy E. coli particles, in vitro. The results reveal no relationship between stress-induced inflammation and immune function among those with low childhood SES. These findings suggest that although individuals with low childhood SES have elevated levels of inflammation, it does not benefit their immune function later in life.

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PSYC2023SMITH43950 PSYC

Does Recall Improve Delayed Feedback for Correcting Older Adults’ Health-related Misconceptions?

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Emily Smith Psychology Addison Babineau Psychology Uma Tauber Psychology
Advisor(s): Uma Tauber Psychology
Location: Third Floor, Table 5, Position 3, 11:30-1:30

Many believe that the flu shot can result in the flu. This a common health-related misconception; the flu vaccine cannot cause the flu, as it does not contain the whole live flu virus. Health-related misconceptions such as this can have a significant impact on the choices people make. Thus, correcting health-related misconceptions is essential, especially for older adults (typically 65+ years of age) who are more vulnerable to illness than are younger adults. Sitzman et al. (2022) found that when provided with immediate feedback and detailed explanations, both older adults and younger adults can correct many of their health-related misconceptions. However, there are instances in which feedback on a misconception can only be delivered after a delay, rather than immediately. For example, one may encounter health-related misconceptions online, but not receive feedback on their misconceptions until their next doctor’s appointment, months later. The aim of the current research was to explore how delayed feedback impacts the correction of health-related misconceptions in older adults and younger adults. Further, we explored how recalling prior answers to health-related questions may improve the effectiveness of delayed feedback. To explore these factors, we manipulated feedback timing (immediate feedback versus delayed feedback) and answer recall (recall initial answer versus no recall) between-participants for both younger adult and older adult participants. To begin the experiment, participants completed a true/false test on health-related knowledge and common health-related misconceptions (e.g., “Memories after a drinking “blackout” can be recovered with the correct method”). After answering each question, some participants were provided immediate and detailed feedback (e.g., “You are correct! This statement is false. Memory functioning is impaired when there is too much alcohol in the body and thus, a “blackout” occurs because a full memory was never made. However, people can build false memories based on what they are told or believe happened”). Other participants received delayed feedback; they received detailed feedback after they finished the entire test. Prior to receiving feedback, some participants were asked to recall their initial answer and some participants were not. Several days later, participants completed a true/false test on the same health-related misconceptions to determine the proportion of corrected misconceptions. We predicted that when participants did not recall their initial answer, immediate feedback would result in more corrected health-related misconceptions as compared to delayed feedback. However, when participants recalled their initial answer, delayed feedback would result in more corrected health-related misconceptions as compared to immediate feedback. Further, we predicted that both older adults and younger adults would benefit from recalling their initial answer when receiving delayed feedback. The results of the present research provide insight into the effect of delayed feedback on correcting health-related misconceptions for older and younger adults, as well as interventions that improve delayed feedback. These findings contribute to the development of effective strategies for correcting health-related misconceptions, particularly for older adults. By improving health-related knowledge through delayed feedback, older and younger adults can make more well-informed health decisions.

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PSYC2023VILLAIRE2218 PSYC

A Prospective Methodology for Examining the Effect of Helicopter Parenting on Adult Child Outcomes

Type: Graduate
Author(s): Stephanie Villaire Psychology Sarah Madison Psychology
Advisor(s): Naomi Ekas Psychology
Location: Basement, Table 3, Position 3, 1:45-3:45

The phenomenon of helicopter parenting, or a parent’s overinvolvement in their children’s lives, has been previously studied in populations of college students. Helicopter parenting is associated with negative effects on child well-being and parental closeness in this population. Current research is sparse, however, with very little research examining helicopter parenting in non-college student populations. The current study aims to (1) replicate previous findings on the effects of helicopter parenting in a non-student population; (2) explore the relationship between helicopter parenting and wellbeing substance use, and justice involvement; and (3) examine associations between demographic variables and helicopter parenting. This poster focuses on the methodology being implemented in the current study, as well as an examination of current literature surrounding helicopter parenting.

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PSYC2023WILSON20206 PSYC

The Relationship between Stress, Inflammation, and Impulsivity

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Owen Wilson Psychology Katja Cunningham Psychology
Advisor(s): Sarah Hill Psychology
Location: Third Floor, Table 4, Position 1, 11:30-1:30

Individuals from stressful environments, such as those who grew up with low socioeconomic status (SES), exhibit an inflammatory response to stress which reflects a physiological present focus. Despite the negative long-term effects of elevated inflammation, the bodies of people with low childhood SES favor immediate survival under stressful conditions, at the expense of long-term health. However, less is known about whether people from low SES childhood environments also exhibit a psychological present focus in response to stress. The current research was designed to experimentally examine the impact of stress exposure on the impulsive decision making of undergraduates from various economic backgrounds. Participants completed baseline measurements of impulsivity, including their self-reported ability to delay gratification and sense of self-control. Next, participants were randomly assigned to either the stress or control condition of the Trier Social Stress Test, before completing the impulsivity measurements again and providing information about their childhood environment and demographics Psychological present focus was measured by comparing baseline and post-stress levels of impulsivity. Preliminary results indicate that stress exposure does not impact the psychological present-focus of people with relatively high childhood SES. However, results trended such that people with relatively low childhood SES reported a reduced ability to delay gratification and lower self-control after experiencing stress, compared to control. These patterns suggest a psychological present-focus in response to stress among those from stressful early life environments. However, results are preliminary and data collection is still ongoing.

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PSYC2023WISE33448 PSYC

Social exclusion influences women's mating strategies: The role of chronic exclusion concern

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Catherine Wise Psychology Matthew Espinosa Psychology Sarah Hill Psychology
Advisor(s): Sarah Hill Psychology
Location: Third Floor, Table 9, Position 2, 1:45-3:45

Social connection, and the protection it provides, was a determining factor for our ancient ancestors’ ability to achieve their evolutionary goals of survival and reproduction. In turn, social exclusion, the loss of this connection, posed a serious threat to these goals, spurring the development of several cognitive and behavioral recovery strategies to combat its harmful effects. One potential strategy for women following experiences of social exclusion is increased motivation to engage in short-term sexual relationships that may quickly alleviate the safety and affiliative concerns associated with social exclusion. However, the relationship between social exclusion and women’s short-term mating (STM) motives remains relatively unexamined. The present research investigated the influence of social exclusion on women’s STM motives, and how individual differences in chronic concerns about exclusion influence this relationship. I predicted that being socially excluded, compared to included, would lead women to have increased STM motives. Furthermore, I predicted that individuals’ differences in chronic concerns about exclusion would moderate this relationship. To test these hypotheses, I primed feelings of social exclusion and inclusion using the future alone paradigm, and then measured several dimensions of unpartnered women’s self-reported STM motives (including sexual unrestrictedness, openness to sexual intercourse, and desired mate investment). Results did not support the hypothesized relationship. Instead, they indicated that excluded women exhibited lower STM motives, specifically less sexual unrestrictedness, than included women. However, this relationship was moderated by chronic exclusion concerns, such that, for socially excluded women, the more chronically concerned with social exclusion they were, the greater their expressed sexual unrestrictedness. For social included women, their trait exclusion concerns were unrelated to their expressed sexual unrestrictedness. Thus, for women that have chronically high exclusion concerns, increased sexual unrestrictedness following social exclusion may be a compensatory mechanism to mitigate the negative effects of being excluded. The implications of these findings for women’s interpersonal and intimate relationships will be discussed.

(Presentation is private)

PSYC2023XIAO29496 PSYC

Mind body dualism and existential concerns

Type: Graduate
Author(s): Jieming Xiao Psychology
Advisor(s): Cathy Cox Psychology
Location: Second Floor, Table 9, Position 1, 1:45-3:45

Terror management theory suggests that the potential for anxiety from the awareness of death can be buffered by a cultural worldview. Mind-body dualism, the belief that the mind and the body are separate, might affect people’s mortality concerns. Given that the body is threatening given its vulnerability to death, individuals who perceive the mind and body as being connected (vs. separate) should experience higher mortality-related thoughts and defense of their cultural beliefs. Past research found that mind-body dualism was related to afterlife belief, which was able to buffer existential concerns (Heflick et al., 2015). Based on these findings, the current research investigated how mind-body dualism moderated the effect of the creaturely body on death-related concerns. The result showed that people who perceived the mind-body relationship as more separate showed significantly fewer death concerns after reading an essay emphasizing the creatureliness of the body, whereas people who held beliefs in a more interrelated mind-body relationship showed heightened death concerns after the creaturely body prime.

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BIOL2022ABDALLA61047 BIOL

The Effect of Anti-inflammatory Compounds Involved in Alzheimer's Disease

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Ruwayd Abdalla Biology Giridhar Akkaraju Biology Prasad Gabbita Biology
Advisor(s): Giri Akkaraju Biology
Location: Basement, Table 3, Position 2, 1:45-3:45

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia that mainly impacts the brain, specifically inducing neuronal cell death in the central nervous system. AD is characterized by the secretion of the protein Tau, and the formation of plaques made up of Beta-amyloid protein. Tau and Beta-amyloid plaques activate the secretion of inflammatory cytokines by microglial cell. The resulting inflammation triggers neuronal cell death, which leads to damage and cognitive decline over time. The cytokines secreted by microglial cells activate the Nf-kB signaling pathway. Activation of Nf-kB results in gene expression and secretion of TNF-a, a cytokine known to be associated with inflammation. This leads to a feedback mechanism that results in greater inflammation.
Our lab has demonstrated that a variety of anti-inflammatory compounds derived from IDT (iso-indolin dithione), targets the Nf-kB pathway by reducing the levels of TNF-a at the protein/translational level. BV-2 cells, a mouse microglial cell line were used in this study. Inflammation was stimulated by exposing these cells to LPS to trigger the activation of the Nf-kB signaling pathway. We hypothesize that the drugs tested reduce levels of TNF-a secreted by BV-2 mouse microglial cells, and therefore, block the development of disease-associated CNS inflammation seen in Alzheimer’s disease

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BIOL2022ADELEKE46088 BIOL

Identifying Novel Genes with Increased Susceptibility to Reactive Oxygen Species in Bacillus Anthracis Sterne

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Victoria Adeleke Biology Luke Hamilton Biology Shauna McGillivray Biology
Advisor(s): Shauna McGillivray Biology
Location: Second Floor, Table 1, Position 3, 1:45-3:45

Bacillus anthracis is a gram-positive bacterial pathogen that causes the deadly infectious disease anthrax. Bacillus anthracis contains two plasmids, pX01, and pX02. These plasmids were found to be necessary for the virulence of B. anthracis. However, Bacillus anthracis contains over 5,000 chromosomal genes and we believe that there are additional virulence genes that have yet to be discovered. Our lab constructed a transposon mutant library with random disruptions in the B. anthracis Sterne genome to screen for novel virulence factors. This library has been successfully used to identify the chromosomal genes clpX and yceGH and show their importance for B. anthracis virulence. To find additional novel virulence genes, we used the same transposon library and screened around 1,000 mutants using hydrogen peroxide, a reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS are involved in the immune defense and the mutants that are attenuated in its presence may have a disrupted gene that contributes to the pathogenicity of B. anthracis. We obtained two mutants that were repeatedly susceptible to hydrogen peroxide in vitro. To determine the virulence of these mutants in an animal model, we will be performing an in vivo assay using the waxworm, Galleria Mellonella. Mutants that have reduced virulence in G. mellonella will be further tested to determine the location of the transposon in the genome to find out which genes are disrupted. The findings of this research could be used as potential therapeutic drug targets and could offer insight into the mechanisms that B. anthracis uses for its pathogenesis.

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BIOL2022ALENIUSTHALHUBER12027 BIOL

Location and release method influence short-term reintroduction success of captive-bred hatchling Texas horned lizards (Phrynosoma cornutum).

Type: Graduate
Author(s): Rachel Alenius-Thalhuber Biology
Advisor(s): Dean Williams Biology
Location: Basement, Table 1, Position 2, 11:30-1:30

Reintroductions have become increasingly common to help restore populations of Texas horned lizards (Phrynosoma cornutum). Reintroduction success of any species can be shaped by many factors including genetics, selection of suitable reintroduction sites, etc. Our primary goal has been to determine whether release techniques- specifically site selection and release method- contribute to the reintroduction success of captive-bred hatchling Texas horned lizards. In 2020 and 2021, we reintroduced over 500 captive-bred hatchling Texas horned lizards from the Ft. Worth, Dallas, and Caldwell Zoos to Mason Mountain WMA (Mason County, TX). Lizards were randomly assigned to one of two release sites and were placed either in clumps of 20+ lizards (Site 2 2020 & Site 1 2021) or were dispersed 5 m from one another (Site 1 2020 & Site 2 2021) at release. We used harmonic radar to track lizards and monitor survivorship outcomes and growth rates from release (September or October) until most lizards began brumating in early December. We found that survival outcomes were associated with both release site (χ22, 509 = 34.5, p<0.0001) and release method (χ22, 509 =15.09, p=0.005). We achieved the highest survivorship (26.4%) when lizards were dispersed at Site 1. Preliminary dietary and prey availability assessments suggest that survivorship differences between locations may be related to differences in food availability. Our findings suggest that future reintroduction attempts may have higher success rates if 1) sites are selected that meet the specific resource requirements of hatchlings, and 2) lizards are dispersed from one another at release.

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BIOL2022ALLENDER29315 BIOL

Mercury Accumulation in Wolf Spiders from the Clear Fork and West Fork of the Trinity River: Effect of Spider Sex and Body Size

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Christopher Allender Biology Robert Peterson Biology
Advisor(s): Matthew Chumchal Biology Ray Drenner Biology
Location: Second Floor, Table 8, Position 1, 1:45-3:45

Mercury (Hg) is released by coal-burning power plants and artisanal gold mines into the atmosphere. Mercury deposited from the atmosphere into aquatic ecosystems can be converted into a neurotoxic form, methyl mercury (MeHg). In aquatic ecosystems, Hg biomagnifies which can affect organisms feeding at higher trophic positions. However, monitoring Hg in the environment to assess the risk to biota is not straightforward. For example, measuring Hg in sediment may not reflect the amount of Hg bioaccumulating in organisms. This difference in the Hg in the sediment and the amount bioaccumulating is partly determined by the bioavailability of Hg. Measuring bioavailability is very complex so sentinels can be used to detect Hg in food chains. Sentinels are defined as organisms that accumulate Hg within their tissues without significant adverse effects. Riparian spiders have been proposed as sentinels. Riparian spiders eat emerging aquatic insects which transport Hg from aquatic ecosystems and because of this, riparian spiders are sentinels of aquatic Hg contamination. The objective of this study was to measure Hg levels in wolf spiders (family: Lycosidae). From May 2021- June 2021, spiders were collected at four sites, two on the Clear Fork and two on the West Fork of the Trinity River, and the spiders were preserved in 95% ethanol. The spiders were sorted based on sex and their body size was measured. Hg will be analyzed using direct mercury analysis. This study attempts to determine the effect of sex and body size on the amount of Hg in wolf spiders, factors that have not been assessed previously. It also attempts to detect differences in the concentration of Hg between the Clear Fork and the West Fork of the Trinity River.

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BIOL2022BOWERS35745 BIOL

Testing the Ability of Macrocyclic Compounds to Reduce Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS)

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Cameron Bowers Biology Giridhar Akkaraju Biology Kayla Green Chemistry & Biochemistry Kristof Pota Chemistry & Biochemistry
Advisor(s): Giridhar Akkaraju Biology
Location: Second Floor, Table 2, Position 3, 11:30-1:30

In the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative inflammatory diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, there is an abnormal buildup of redox metal ions that associate with β-amyloid plaques and convert oxygen into oxygen radicals. These radicals are highly reactive with cellular components and lead to oxidative stress that induces damage and death of neuronal cells which is associated with the cognitive decline of Alzheimer’s disease. Bifunctional macrocyclic compounds with antioxidant properties are a promising potential therapeutic to reduce levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and increase neuronal cell survival via the ability to chelate dysregulated metal ions and radical scavenging. In this project, novel macrocyclic compounds were tested for their efficacy in reducing intracellular levels of H2O2-induced ROS and H2O2-induced cytotoxicity. Intracellular ROS levels and cell survival were quantified in FRDA and BV-2 cells using the DCFH-DA and MTT cytotoxicity assays.

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BIOL2022BUSSARD55348 BIOL

Building a Better Mouse Trap: Novel Object Location vs Novel Object Recognition

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Morgan Bussard Biology Paige Braden-Kuhle Biology Kelly Brice Biology Claire Middleton Biology Shelby Kay Miller Biology
Advisor(s): Michael Chumley Biology Gary Boehm Psychology
Location: Third Floor, Table 2, Position 3, 1:45-3:45

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is often associated with chronic inflammation and cognitive dysfunction. In studying how AD-like pathologies change and affect learning and memory, our lab aims to optimize an object location memory (OLM) testing paradigm in mice. Briefly, a mouse is placed into an arena with two identical objects for a training session. Four hours later, one of the objects is moved to a novel location, and the mouse is placed back into the arena for the testing session. Because mice exhibit a preference for novelty, memory is assessed as the amount of time the mouse spends exploring the moved object divided by the total time spent exploring both objects. Our goal is to identify testing parameters that make this task both accurate and efficient for our lab’s use, as we will add this learning paradigm to a battery of behavioral tests to be used in future experiments. In the current study, the OLM protocol will be performed twice according to two different experimental timelines that test the effects of adding an additional training session to the original protocol.

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BIOL2022CASCELLA24290 BIOL

How important is enzymatic function? Determining which traits of the tumor suppressor BRCA1 rely on nucleosome ubiquitylation.

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Meenal Cascella Biology
Advisor(s): Mikaela Stewart Biology
Location: Basement, Table 12, Position 1, 1:45-3:45

BRCA1 is a gene found in humans that, when mutated, has been linked to breast and ovarian cancer. A homolog version of this gene, known as brc-1, exists in an organism called the Caenorhabditis elegans. This is a species of nematode worm that has the potential to be used as a model organism to study this homolog gene that is associated with human breast cancer. Previous studies with C. elegans have shown links between the brc-1 gene and DNA damage responses, cytochrome p450, or cyp, transcription levels, and ratios of male phenotype worms. This project focused on studying whether these brc-1 functions are dictated by the enzymatic activity of the protein made by this gene. To measure these phenotypes, we used a strain of C. elegans with a brc-1 mutation engineered to lack enzymatic activity of the BRCA1 protein toward nucleosomes. In order to determine how this lack of enzymatic activity affects brc-1 functions, we measured levels of reactive oxygen species (serving as a proxy for DNA damage), numbers of male offspring, and cyp levels in the mutant and wild-type C. elegans. Our initial results indicate the effects of enzymatic activity towards nucleosomes on the aforementioned phenotypes.

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BIOL2022DO34325 BIOL

Investigating The Role of ClpX in Regulation of Stress Responses in Bacillus anthracis Sterne

Type: Graduate
Author(s): Vuong Do Biology
Advisor(s): Shauna McGillivray Biology
Location: Second Floor, Table 7, Position 1, 11:30-1:30

Anthrax is an infectious disease caused by Bacillus anthracis, which is a spore forming bacterium. Even though the anthrax toxins and capsule, encoded on 2 plasmids pXO1 and pXO2, play crucial role in the pathogenesis of anthrax infection, evidence suggests that chromosomal genes also play a role. The ClpX ATPase was discovered to be crucial for B. anthracis virulence via protection against host antimicrobial peptides. In this study, we want to investigate the role of clpX in regulation of other stressors including acidic stress, temperature stress, salt stress, and non-cell envelope active antibiotics. We found that clpX is necessary for survival in an acidic environment and growth under heat stress. We demonstrate that acidic stress resistance is mediated by the formation of the ClpXP protease using a ClpX complementation plasmid that is incapable of interacting with ClpP. There is no association between clpX with other stressors. We conclude that the ClpX is required for B. anthracis pathogenicity via defenses against host antimicrobial peptides and for survival in an acidic environment. Understanding the role ClpX in the regulation of stress responses will ultimately infer us with new target for either directly combating infection or improving the efficacy of already available medicines.

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BIOL2022EASTBURN4625 BIOL

Impacts of Pollen Donor Distance and Nutrient Availability on Reproductive Success in a Carnivorous Plant

Type: Graduate
Author(s): Halia Eastburn Biology
Advisor(s): John Horner Biology
Location: Second Floor, Table 6, Position 3, 1:45-3:45

Impacts of Pollen-Donor Distance and Nutrient Availability on
Reproductive Success in a Carnivorous Plant

Halia Eastburn and John Horner

The maintenance of genetic diversity has important consequences for the survival of plant populations. Because plants are sessile, the distance between plants is often inversely correlated with relatedness. Therefore, the distance between pollen-donor and recipient can determine the level of inbreeding or outbreeding. Both pollen-donor distance and nutrient availability can affect reproductive success in populations of flowering plants. Populations of the carnivorous plant Sarracenia alata have dwindled and become extremely fragmented due to human development and agriculture. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of pollen-donor distance and prey capture on reproductive success in S. alata. We hand-pollinated flowers with pollen from varying distances [0 m (self-pollinated) and 35, 60, 90, 125, and 190 m], and we prevented prey capture in half of our study plants. We measured seed production and germination to estimate reproductive success. Pollen-donors from greater distances sired a greater number of seeds but pollen-donor distance did not affect germinability. There was no effect of prey capture alone nor an interaction of pollen-donor and prey capture on seed production or germination. More research is needed to understand nutrient allocation for reproduction over multiple years and natural variance in prey capture which might affect reproductive output in subsequent seasons.

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BIOL2022FALKENBERG44638 BIOL

Investigation of Conservation of BRD1 Activity in C. elegans

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Owen Falkenberg Biology
Advisor(s): Mikaela Stewart Biology
Location: First Floor, Table 6, Position 2, 11:30-1:30

Our project focused on the conservation of activity of the protein BRD1 in C. elegans. C. elegans is a strong model organism for our study because BRD-1 is the worm ortholog to BARD1 in humans. Specifically, our focus is on its function as an enzyme to attach ubiquitin to the H2A tail of nucleosomes. We studied a structural mutation of BRD-1 that we predicted would interfere with its ability to bind its substrate, the nucleosome. We hypothesized that BRD-1 is bound to the nucleosome at this mutation site based on prior research in the human protein. Therefore, we integrated mutations found in humans into the DNA that codes for C. elegans BRD-1. A typical mutagenesis protocol was used to implement the mutations and then we expressed the proteins in E. coli cells. After that, nucleosomes were reconstituted by dialysis, and enzyme activity was assessed using a ubiquitination assay. These assays showed that BRD-1 in C. elegans does bind the nucleosome demonstrating conservation of the BARD1 function. Determining that function is conserved allowed us to determine that C. elegans is an appropriate organism to test mutations found in humans. This research has future clinical potential due to the ability to test mutations encountered in humans using a model organism and can aid with clinical treatment plans to help avoid the development of cancer.

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BIOL2022FARROLL62028 BIOL

Developing assays for testing the effectiveness of a TNF-alpha modulating Alzheimer’s drug

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Caroline Farroll Biology
Advisor(s): Giri Akkaraju Biology
Location: Second Floor, Table 3, Position 1, 1:45-3:45

Many anti-inflammatory drugs are currently in use to treat neuroinflammation in the brain which can result from Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, traumatic brain injury, and more. In collaboration with a company, P2Dbiosciences, we are testing drugs that can modulate the function of inflammatory cytokines such as TNF-alpha, with the goal of reducing neuroinflammation and thus benefiting people suffering from the neurodegeneration and cognitive decline associated with neuroinflammation. We hypothesize these drugs work by inhibiting the signaling associated with inflammatory cytokines.
Two different assays were developed to identify the mechanism of action of these cytokine modulating anti-inflammatory drugs. BV2 cells in culture were used for these assays to model how the drug affects mouse microglial cells (immune cells resident in the brain). The first assay uses a luciferase reporter gene to determine if NF-kB promoter activity is disrupted when cells are treated with drug. The second assay uses quantitative RT-PCR (qPCR) to measure changes in TNF-alpha mRNA levels when cells are treated with drug. Levels of TNF-alpha mRNA were also quantified over a period of time following drug treatment to determine whether the degradation time of the TNF-alpha mRNA was affected by treatment.

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BIOL2022GARVEY17681 BIOL

THE NUMBER OF QUEENS IN RED INVASIVE FIRE ANT COLONIES AND TEXAS HORNED LIZARD DENSITY

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Jeffrey Garvey Biology
Advisor(s): Dean Williams Biology Marlo Jeffries Biology David Minter Chemistry & Biochemistry
Location: Second Floor, Table 9, Position 1, 1:45-3:45

Invasive species, such as the Red Imported Fire Ant (Solenopsis invicta, hereafter, RIFA), can negatively impact native species via predation and modifying prey behavior. RIFA exist in two colony types, monogyne (single queen) and polygyne (multiple queens), and polygyne colonies are known to contain higher densities of fire ants than monogyne colonies. Texas horned lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum) eggs and hatchlings are suspected prey of RIFA’s foraging and aggressive behaviors. In this study, we collected fire ants from Karnes City and Kenedy to determine if Texas horned lizard density is lower around polygyne colonies. We collected and sequenced 30 ants, of which 20 were RIFA. Counter to our expectations, there seemed to be no correlation between RIFA colony type and Texas horned lizard density. Furthermore, we found evidence that monogyne and polgyne colonies were coexisting. In future studies, we think larger sampling sizes and determining ratios of polygyne to monogyne colonies within the same area would be useful for further testing the hypothesis that colony type may affect horned lizard density.

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