The effects of methyl-mercury on spatial memory in zebra finches – Week 6-8

During these weeks of my summer research, I had begun to run the mercury-dosed birds through the spatial memory test. I had to be careful any biases I had about the outcome of their trials wouldn’t affect how I tested them, because the goal of my research is to determine if there actually is a difference between the spatial memory capabilities of mercury-dosed birds compared to normal ones. Since I predicted that their capabilities would be decreased, I had to be wary of whether or not I was biased about the way I recorded data, as experimenter bias could make me interpret the results I get in a way that is beneficial to me. Thankfully however, I had the feeling that I was being as objective as a possibly could, and it helped that the data I’m collecting for this particular spatial memory test is pretty objective with little room for bias affecting it.

My partner Neil had returned from his vacation during these two weeks, so I had to update him on the protocol I had finalized right when he left for his trip. Once I had done this, he took over for Capwell and began to run trials in the morning on the mercury birds. As for the actual trials themselves, a majority of them ran as smoothly as the control birds did, but there were a few more instances of birds failing out compared to the control birds. Out of the 14 mercury birds that were tested, 4 of them failed out, compared to 1 control bird that failed out. This alone is a useful piece of information when comparing the spatial memory capabilities of control and mercury-dosed birds, as it essentially shows that mercury birds were four times as likely to fail out compared to control birds, which shows that there spatial memory is potentially stunted. In order to still get adequate data from these four failed birds, we decided to wait a week from the day the failed out to test them again, which is essentially what we spent our last two weeks of the summer