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URAC Presenter: Senior neuroscience major studies ADHD treatment

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Posted on Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Cass Nielsen, one of the eight select podium presenters to be featured at this year’s Undergraduate Research and Arts Celebration (URAC) on Wednesday, April 21, will discuss her senior capstone project, “The Effects of Methylphenidate and Nicotine on Spatial Working Memory in Rodents.”

The neuroscience major researched methylphenidate—often referred to by its brand name Ritalin—to see if the medications used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD can have adverse effects during adolescence. A grant from Westminster’s Drinko Center for Undergraduate Research helped advance Nielsen’s research.

In her study, rodents were administered a dosage of methylphenidate that would be equivalent to the potency a person with moderate ADHD might be prescribed.

“I chose this subject because I want to go into the field of education as a behavioral interventionist and many students in school struggle with ADHD,” Nielsen said.

Although ADHD is a well-studied disorder, Nielsen believes more research on the effects of ADHD treatment can be performed.

“This area should be investigated more so that we can understand how the treatments of ADHD can affect an individual later in life,” she said.

Nielsen conducted her research under the guidance of Dr. Deanne Buffalari, chair of Westminster’s neuroscience program and associate professor of psychology. Following graduation from Westminster, Nielsen plans to pursue a master’s degree in either behavioral analysis or applied behavior analysis therapy to help those with autism, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Nielsen, also a fine arts minor, is from Warren, Pa.

Westminster’s Drinko Center for Undergraduate Research financially supports undergraduate research through various grants aimed at either the undertaking of research and creative projects at Westminster College or the external presentation and dissemination of research and creative works at conferences. For more information about the Drinko Center, please contact Dr. Karen Resendes, director, at or visit

For more about Westminster’s neuroscience major, please visit