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Neuroscience Majors Published in Undergraduate Journal

Posted on Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Senior capstone research projects by Westminster College neuroscience majors Kristina Scanlan and Tiffany Wilkins were published in the Journal of Student Research, a multi-disciplinary, peer-reviewed electronic undergraduate journal.

"Our two-semester capstone program enables undergraduate students to conduct in-depth research on important issues in psychology," said Dr. Mandy Medvin, professor and chair of Westminster's Department of Psychology.  "The publications in this journal represent the kinds of work that students can complete when mentored by faculty within a programmatic framework.  These are excellent students and we are very proud of them."

Dr. Robin McGovern, Westminster assistant professor of psychology, was faculty adviser for both projects and was instrumental in helping the students submit the research for publication.

Scanlan's research, "The Role of Oxytocin, Vasopressin, and D-cycloserine in Remediating Social Behavior in Rats with Amygdala Lesions," was co-advised by Dr. Alan Gittis, professor of psychology emeritus.  Scanlan investigated potential treatments for the social deficits of autism spectrum disorders and whether the gender of the subject affected the animal's response to treatment.

The research determined the antibiotic D-cycloserine had the most significant effect on the subjects and that gender did play a role in treatment efficacy.

"For many of us, communicating comes naturally," Scanlan said.  "However, for an individual with an autism spectrum disorder, knowing how to appropriately interact with others is a challenge, at best.  By researching the possible pharmaceutical treatments for the social deficits found in autism, the quality of life for these individuals can be improved."

Scanlan is a daughter of Roger and Michele Scanlan of Ebensburg and a graduate of Central Cambria High School.

Wilkins' project, "The Effects of Clozapine on Methylphenidate-Induced Conditioned Place Preference," studied the abuse potential of Ritalin and how clozapine decreases that potential.

As ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) diagnoses increase, the number of patients becoming addicted to Ritalin and abusing it also increases.  Wilkins' research explored whether clozapine taken with Ritalin would decrease the abuse potential without interfering with Ritalin's therapeutic effects.

Wilkins is a daughter of Judith Hartman of New Castle and a graduate of Mohawk Area High School.

Scanlan and Wilkins presented posters on their research at the Society for Neuroscience conference in Washington, D.C., in November.

Contact McGovern at (724) 946-7358 or email for additional information.

(L-r) Kristina Scanlan, Dr. Robin McGovern, Tiffany Wilkins