BY CARLOS GONZALEZ
2013 Symposium on Student Research,
Creative Activities and Innovation Finalist
Because I have chosen to pursue a career in neuroscience, the importance of undergraduate-level research cannot be overstated. As a general rule, going from an undergraduate program straight to a Ph.D. program requires a background in research beyond what is normally provided by class-associated labs. The main difference between class-centered lab work and working in Dr. Keith Trujillo’s neuropharmacology research lab is the ability to explore topics that interest me on a level that is simply not feasible in normal class-lab setting. This, of course, has increased my interest in neuroscience and has played a large role in my decision to pursue graduate education.
About my Research
My research focuses on elucidating behavioral differences between adult and adolescent rats in response to drugs such as ketamine. Because adults and adolescents differ with respect to brain development, drugs often affects these two groups in different ways. Adolescence is a very formative time period in an individual’s life, and it often marks the beginning of exploratory drug abuse. However, the effects of drugs are often characterized in adult populations. Therefore we don’t fully know how drugs affect adolescents and what long-term consequences may result from adolescent drug abuse. In order to determine any differences, we use the rat model of adolescence.
My research has focused specifically on the aversive qualities of drugs. One hypothesis of drug abuse is that drugs have both aversive and rewarding properties, and the ability of a drug’s rewarding properties to overcome any aversive qualities will contribute to its abuse. My research has found that ketamine is less aversive to adolescents than adults. Additionally, our lab has found that adolescents may find ketamine more rewarding than adults. Taken together, this shows that ketamine has a high potential for abuse, which may account for the increase of abuse seen in adolescents.
Carlos Gonzalez is among the 10 finalists representing CSUSM at the 27th annual statewide Student Research Competition held at Cal Poly Pomona on May 10-11. Hear firsthand how his research is leading to new discoveries, positively impacting his education and propeling him toward his future aspirations.