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Carthage Neuroscience Lab

The Neuroscience Laboratory at Carthage is used by psychology and neuroscience faculty and students. The lab is equipped with a rodent colony, complex environment housing, operant chambers, 17-arm radial maze, water maze, object recognition chambers, and equipment for surgery and histology.

In this lab, Professor Daniel Miller leads students in researching post-traumatic stress disorder in an animal model: Researchers study the behavioral effects of manipulating the brain through lesions or drugs. Professor Penny Seymoure leads students in studying the lifespan consequences of neonatal intervention on the development of gonadal and stress hormone systems in rodents. Currently she and her students have been engaged in lifespan studies on the cognitive effects of neonatal exposure to the commonly used antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac).

Students can use the following equipment in their research:

Signaled Barpress

The signaled barpress uses a standard operant conditioning chamber; a rat presses a lever to receive food pellet reinforcement. A speaker directly above the cage delivers a one-second tone, on average every 25 seconds. A bar press that occurs during the tone results in food pellet delivery. A bar press that occurs at other times is not reinforced. On average, rats reach asymptotic learning levels in six days, making this an ideal task for undergraduate behavioral neuroscience research.

Enriched Environments

Carthage’s rodent colony includes enriched environment, or complex environment, housing. In this type of housing, rodents are grouped with 10 to 12 other rats of the same sex in large stainless steel cages. Toys and other items in the cage are changed on a weekly basis, allowing the rats to interact with each other and the objects. The environment gives the animals more stimulation, explains Professor Penny Seymoure: “They interact with their environment. They move all of their items around, they pick favorite things and sleep in them.” When the cages are cleaned, new items are added. “Within 30 minutes, the rats have reorganized it,” Dr. Seymoure says. “Animals who live in these cages, we know from a multitude of research, are smarter, learn faster, have better memory, are more flexible in their thinking, and adopt alternate strategies quite rapidly.”

17-arm Radial Maze

The 17-arm radial maze is a very challenging task, requiring the hippocampus and related brain structures for success in learning the task. Professor Penny Seymoure has used the 17-arm radial maze to study rearing environment and gender differences (Seymoure, P., Dou, H., and Juraska, J.M. 1996 Psychobiol., 24, 33-37) and lifespan spatial cognition (Seymoure, P., 2003, Spatial memory for the 17-arm-radial maze improves over the lifespan of rats living in a complex environment presented at the Society for Neuroscience conference) in hooded rats. In the 2003 study Dr. Seymoure tested Long-Evans hooded rats in the 17-arm radial maze four times, from before puberty to early old age. She found that spatial memory for the 17-arm radial maze significantly improves over the lifespan of rats living in a complex environment.

Water Maze

Sara Servais Schramm uses the water maze in the neuroscience laboratory.Sara Servais Schramm uses the water maze in the neuroscience laboratory.

The Morris water maze task is a well-established method to examine both acquisition and memory in rodents. Rats are natural swimmers and can find the hidden underwater escape platform through using cues, which are either spatial cues arranged around the testing room or a local cue that signals the exact placement of the platform. An advantage of the water maze method is that animals are motivated to escape from the water, so that food or drinking restrictions are not used for the task.

Professor Seymoure has used the water maze to examine the effects of naturally cycling gonadal hormones, environmental housing conditions, neonatal stress through decreases or increases in tactile stimulation, and through neonatal exposure to fluoxetine.

  • Quick Facts

    • Carthage was granted Wisconsin’s first chapter in Nu Rho Psi, the national honor society for neuroscience. 

    • The Neuroscience Department offers one of Carthage’s most popular J-Term study tours: Biodiversity, Brains, and Behavior. In this course, students earn scuba certification, then spend January diving in Honduras to understand the evolution of nervous systems and behavior.

    • New in 2015, the Carthage Science Center features a neuroscience laboratory equipped with rat and mouse colonies, a behavioral data collection room, suites for rodent surgery and histology, and a confocal microscopy lab.

    • Carthage is named a Best Midwestern College by The Princeton Review (2020), a designation given to only 25 percent of four-year schools.

    • The Tower, Carthage’s newest residence hall, provides some of the best views on campus — if not in the Midwest! In addition to #carthageviews of the lake from seven stories up, residents enjoy suite-style living and two floors of shared campus spaces for gaming, cooking, group meetings, or quiet studying. Learn more about all housing options.

    • You’re going to need brain fuel. Grab a morning coffee and a snack and Starbucks or Einstein Bros. Bagels. Later, meet friends at “The Caf,” where the specials change daily but the staples are constant, or swing through “The Stu” for wings, a burrito, or a sub. A new option, Carthage Cash, even covers some off-campus meals.

    • More than 90% of Carthage alumni report that they have secured a job or are continuing their studies six months after graduation. Visit The Aspire Center.

    • 91% of employers say critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills matter more than your major when it comes to career success. Learn more about how the liberal arts prepare you for a successful career.

    • Lots of schools wear the four-year label. Carthage stands behind it. More than 90% of Carthage graduates earn their degrees in four years. Learn more

    • Oscars. Emmys. Tonys. Golden Globes. The playwrights we’ve brought in have them. Each year, the Carthage Theatre Department commissions an original script by a renowned playwright for its New Play Initiative. Carthage students then work with the writer to stage it. 

    • Carthage has ranked as a top Fulbright producer for four of the past five years. Read about Carthage Fulbright winners.

    • Things look new at Carthage because they are. Our science center, student union, athletic and recreation center, and numerous residence halls have all been constructed or newly renovated in the last 15 years.

    • Carthage offers majors, minors, and concentrations in more than 50 areas of study, from marketing to neuroscience, nursing to music theatre.

    • Our Summer Undergraduate Research Experience offers select students a research budget, one-on-one mentoring with a professor, and 10 weeks of analyzing, deciphering — and getting paid.

    • So the lake is kind of a focal point, but there’s a lot more to love about our campus — like the fact that our more than 80-acre campus is also an arboretum and wildlife sanctuary. Focused on keeping campus lush forever, we plant between 50 and 75 new trees every year from a variety of species.

    • Carthage was founded in 1847. That’s more than 170 years of leaders, makers, and go-getters going out and going forth. Read more about Carthage’s rich history.

    • More than 90 percent of students receive financial aid. Carthage awards more than $20 million in scholarship and grant assistance. That includes $5.5 million in competitive scholarships in business, mathematics, science, languages, the fine arts, leadership, and overall academic strength. Learn what’s available.

    • Abraham Lincoln was an early Trustee of the College, and U.S. Secretary of State John Hay was a Carthage alum. The two still have a proud place on our campus. Spend some time with them in our Sesquicentennial Plaza. On warm days you’ll find professors leading their classes here.

    • Come to Carthage; hear yourself think — think … think …
      Legend has it that Sesquicentennial Plaza holds a perfect echo. Just stand with both your feet on the “1847,” face Straz, and start talking. “You’re the only one who can hear you, but you’ll be crystal clear,” promises English and theatre alumna Mikaley Osley.

    • Our Great Lake provides Carthage students with some amazing views. Think classes on the beach, lake views from the lab, and sunrises from your dorm room. “I love waking up in the morning with the sun shining off the lake. Nothing compares to the view in the morning,” recalls biology and neuroscience major Ann O’Leary.

    • Carthage awards up to 35 Presidential Scholarships each year, which range from $22,000 up to full tuition. Learn more.

    • For a full decade, NASA has selected Carthage students to conduct research aboard its zero-gravity aircraft. Lately, the stakes have risen. A team of underclassmen is grinding to prepare a tiny but powerful Earth-imaging satellite for launch to the International Space Station. Learn more about the space sciences at Carthage

    • Carthage is the only college or university in the Midwest where every freshman takes a full-year sequence of foundational texts of the Western intellectual tradition. Learn about Intellectual Foundations.

    • With a student-faculty ratio of 13:1, your professors will know who you are. They will also know who you want to be — and how to get you there. Meet our faculty.

    • There are more than 130 student organizations on campus, from Amnesty International to Fencing to Frisbee, Chem Club to Stand Up Comedy. See how easy it is to get involved.

    • True story: There are more than 27 art galleries, a dozen museums, and nine theatres within 25 miles of Carthage. Some highlights: The nationally recognized Racine Art Museum, the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago, and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Learn more about our location.

    • What’s better than one professor? Two professors. What’s better than two professors? Two professors from totally different fields teaching a single class. There’s debate. Discussion. Differing perspectives. This is where the magic happens. That’s why every student takes a Carthage Symposium.

    • You can’t hide here — not with only 17 other students in the classroom with you. That’s going to be rough some mornings. But later, when you’re able to argue your point of view thoughtfully, express your opinions succinctly, and meet challenges head-on, without fear … Yep, you’ll thank us.

    • Carthage is ranked No. 3 in the country for student participation in short-term study abroad. Every J-Term, hundreds of students travel all over the world on faculty-led study tours. Imagine a month in Sweden, Rome, Cuba, Senegal, India, Japan …