Undergraduate Academic Affairs
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Undergraduate Research Symposium Award Winners 2009

Best Research

The Effect of Social Interaction on Subsequent Nicotine Exposure

Primary Author

Erica Sears, Psychology

Faculty Sponsors

Robert Smith, Craig McDonald

Abstract

Recent research has indicated nicotine acts differently in the adolescent brain than the adult brain. Differences in structural changes are apparent in adolescent and adult brains after repeated exposure to nicotine. Expression of DA neurons reach their peak during adolescence, and since nicotine acts primarily in the cholinergic system, it appears adolescence is a vulnerable time for exposure to nicotine creating long-term effects due to plasticity. Social interaction has an important function during adolescence and studies examining play in juvenile rats have concluded that play has rewarding characteristics. The study investigated the variable of nicotine pretreatment and social interaction and measured adult locomotor sensitization as the outcome. The study used a total of 36 male Sprague Daly rats for experimental conditions and 9 conspecific rats for social context. Differences were measured using an open field apparatus with all animals receiving a challenge dose of nicotine on the second day of testing. Results indicate significant differences between groups (social x drug) on vertical movement but not horizontal movement.

Best Research

Political Stability Through Buildings: Minority Architectural Patronage of Michael VIII and Mehmed II

Primary Author

Sana Mirza, BA Art History

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Lawrence Butler

Abstract

Faced with the ruins of the newly conquered Constantinople, Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos, and later, Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II had to not only rebuild the city but re-establish their empires in the Mediterranean. Physically and economically the city was a dull shadow of its former glory, and presented a challenge to its new rulers. Michael VIII’s and Mehmed II’s responses were epitomized in their architectural projects relating to minorities. A combination of primary and secondary sources sheds light on these buildings and their economic and political outcomes. Travelers’ reports, diplomatic correspondence and chronicles, as well as building descriptions and depictions together present both the Palaiologan mosque and Ottoman patronage of Orthodox Christian Patriarchate and church forms. The Palaiologan mosque arises from a report of a diplomatic visit of a Mamluk ambassador. Other travelers’ reports describe the conditions of Muslims and mosques in Constantinople. Mehmed II’s treatment of the Orthodox Christian Patriarchate is seen through contemporary Christian writers and official diplomatic correspondence. Mehmed II was appropriating churches and church design into the repertoire of imperial mosques, some which are still surviving and others are known through descriptions and depictions. Michael VIII’s patronage participated in the larger phenomenon of gift exchange in the Mediterranean, a tradition that included the earlier building of mosques within Constantinople and encouraging economic and political ties. This paper argues both rulers used architectural patronage to encourage minority populations and garner alliances to rebuild and stabilize Constantinople. The Palaiologan mosque was an attempt to participate, in a much larger scale, in the Mediterranean gift exchange, while the Ottoman relationship with the Orthodox Church was part of a governing strategy, one that emphasized the role of the Ottoman sultan as the new ruler of Constantinople and its diverse population.

Best Research

The Effect of Zinc and Zinc Plus Copper on Memory

Primary Author

Tizoc Perez-Casillas, Psychology

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Jane Flinn

Abstract

Trace metals exist in low quantities in the human body. Zinc and copper are two trace metals that are essential in the body, yet they must be balanced otherwise negative side effects emerge. Zinc has an antagonistic effect on copper in that an excess amount of zinc depletes copper. Furthermore, previous studies have also shown that raising rats on zinc, given both pre-natally to the mother and after birth to the offspring, leads to cognitive impairments in adult rats, which are rescued in part by adding copper to the diet. I raised forty-five rats, on zinc (15), zinc plus copper (15), and on lab water (15). Zinc and zinc plus copper were dissolved in the rats’ drinking water. The group of rats that had no metals added in the water was measured as a baseline (control). Previous experiments have shown that rats raised on zinc could not learn via the process of extinction. The rats were subjected to a delayed fear-conditioning task, which measured the duration to extinguish the learned fear. For rats dosed with zinc, when a stimulus was no longer fearful, the rats took the longest to extinguish the learned fear. Since copper partly remediates the zinc effects, the rats dosed with zinc plus copper extinguished faster than the rats dosed solely on zinc, and in some cases, extinguished faster than the rats dosed exclusively on lab water. The proposed study will further elucidate zinc and the effects it has on cognitive abilities and the remediation of zinc when copper is present. From a larger perspective, this study emphasizes that an excess of indispensable minerals and nutrients, which are found in several food products, does not necessarily imply better human functioning.

Best Use of Technology

Quantifying the Complexity of Interruption

Primary Author

Maren Davis, Psychology

Additional Author

Xiaoxue Zhang, Psychology

Faculty Sponsor

Deborah A. Boehm-Davis

Abstract

Interruptions are an ever-present part of our lives. However, how interruptions affect our lives is not as clear as you would think. Past research examining the effect of interruption complexity on primary task performance has shown mixed results. Some research suggests that interruption complexity does not directly influence the disruptiveness of interruptions, while other work has shown that interruption complexity does lead to greater disruption of the primary task. By quantifying complexity in terms of the number of mental operators and the time required to complete a task, as opposed an intuitive sense of difficulty, we predict that more complex interruptions will be more disruptive to the primary task. In this study, participants performed a single primary task of programming a simulated Video Cassette Recorder (VCR). The primary task was interrupted by either a simple or complex interruption. The simple interruption task required the participant to decide which of the two-digit numbers displayed on the computer screen was higher, and respond by clicking on the button corresponding to the number. Participants in the complex interruption condition had the additional task of adding the two digits of the higher number together and deciding whether the sum was even or odd. We predict that our results will show that it takes longer to resume the primary task following the complex interruption. If this is the case, these results will suggest that using the quantification method of number of mental operations and time to complete the task can be used as a reliable measure to predict the disruptiveness of an interruption.

Best Project Involving Language

Individual Performance

Primary Author

Svetlana Makarova, Psychology

Faculty Sponsor

Eden King

Abstract

In this experiment, the effect of accented speech narration on listener performance will be assessed. The accented speakers were: Standard English (native), Hispanic, Asian and Slavic. Accent prestige theory suggests individuals generally accredit higher prestige to native speakers of English than foreign or even regional accents. Therefore, we anticipate that listeners will perform better when on the comprehension task narrated by native speakers than non-native speakers. We also expect that listeners will perform better when instructed by women than men. Further implications and limitations will be discussed.

Best Poster

GMU Mesoamerican Collections Research Project

Primary Author

Lynn E. Godino, BA Anthropology

Additional Authors

Elizabeth I. Arnold, Amber K. Cox - Anthropology

Faculty Sponsor

Alexander V. Benitez

Abstract

U.S. museums house significant numbers of archaeological objects acquired in the late 19th-early 20th centuries. However, many of these objects were accessioned with little or no provenience information (archaeological context) and they remain in this condition today. In this state, these objects are of limited use to archaeologists and other researchers. Museum staff, who often lack the resources and time to research entire collections, are also limited in their ability to accurately present these objects to the public. To address this problem, undergraduate anthropology students, as part of the GMU Mesoamerican Collections Project, are helping to develop a methodology that will more fully document the Mesoamerican archaeological collections housed at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), Smithsonian Institution. Students are successfully identifying each object’s cultural affiliation and period of production by analyzing manufacturing techniques and design styles, as well researching each object’s acquisition history. The final research assessments are supported by a detailed documentation of reference sources and analysis methods which may then be reviewed and assessed by experts in the field. Thus far, the project has received the support of well-known academic and museum scholars, and the student research was presented at the 2008 annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association.

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