Reflection and Intro to CPP

A few days ago, I expressed my frustration about recent testing procedures which did not pan out as intended. Lab goes on though, and another project is on the horizon.

While previous weeks have been admittedly disappointing, they have caused some reflection on my part on the scientific process. Scientists are plagued with the not-so-simple task of understanding the world around them. Data may point in one direction for some time, only to point in the opposite after further review. It is amazing how researchers can take inspiration from one another; thereby, guiding each other’s work in the right direction. One cannot deny the effectiveness of this system in that it makes researchers who would otherwise be distant, close. Doing something that opposes the work of others is brave. I admire those scientists throughout history who have come to find flaws with the common knowledge in their fields and fix them through their own work. This is a risky business and it merits respect. As this relates to my lab, I have found it difficult to draw the line between “the procedure needs to be adjusted” versus “this type of experiment will not work”. These are hard decisions but one has to make hard decisions to be successful in a research lab.

 For the moment, my lab has taken on a new project which is a welcome change of pace after facing difficult results previously.

Unlike the previous paradigm, this new project, conditioned place preference (CPP), has actually been used to evaluate the motivational qualities of different compounds in zebrafish in recent times. Our lab will use this procedure with ethanol as the drug of choice. The first step of this procedure is a baseline preference test. The purpose with this is to see what kind of environment, out of two, the fish will prefer, given a choice. The fish is first placed in the middle of the tank, then two dividers are removed, allowing access to either environment. The two environments are two sides of a fish tank, lined with blank or dotted paper on the bottom. Using two identical tanks, one can be filled with a small concentration of alcohol in addition to saltwater while the other is only filled with salt water. In the training phase, all fish are exposed to both environments for extended periods of time, with no choice of environment. Some fish will be exposed to alcohol in one environment – the one they least preferred to swim in during the baseline preference test. The other fish will spend time in both environments, none containing alcohol. Essentially, then, one environment has been linked with alcohol for some fish which, based on previous research, the fish should find rewarding. In the final test, the fish are again given a choice between environments. The ones exposed to alcohol should be more likely to spend more time in that particular side of the tank which contained alcohol during training, while the control group would show no such elevated preference.

If we are able to run this experiment and attain similar results to other zebrafish labs, the small success will allow us to pursue variations of the paradigm so that we may add something new to the literature on CPP.