Friday Weird Science Revisited: the “but they could have done it better” edition

Some of you may recall the post Sci posted on Friday “If you’re happy and you know it, smell some pee“. It’s an adorable post, by the way, in which Sci waxes extremely witty and breaks into song. We all love songs.

But the more Sci thought about the paper the more she thought several things:

1) Biological Psychiatry?! Do we have to go through this AGAIN?! I mean, the paper was FINE, but…BIOLOGICAL PSYCHIATRY?! This is not groundbreaking clinically relevant awesomeness, it’s a new animal model.

2) Sci could do it BETTER.

Sci doesn’t mean that to be a jerk, I really DO think this paper could have some bigger, cooler awesomeness to it. And for all I know, the scientists are in fact pursuing all of these avenues of research, but still. Authors, listen up for a second. Sci’s got some IDEAS. And she wants you to use them. Cause we are all in this together, and we all need to find some new hot animal models, amirite?!

Here we go

So to recap: this paper is investigating a new animal model of reward-seeking behavior, in which male mice get to sniff lady mouse pee. This was proved in the paper to be a rewarding behavior based upon the amount of time sniffing the urine, the number of squeaks the mouse made while sniffing, and increases in dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens, an area associated with the rewarding properties of stuff (Sci was going to say stimuli, but I think to people who don’t do this, that probably sounds like jargon).

Now the thing is, the authors took this paper in a specific direction, using a mouse that has a knockout of the GlurR6 receptor, which is a mouse linked with mania-related behaviors and sometimes used as a model of bipolar disorder, because it responds to lithium. That’s all well and good, and that’s certainly a fine direction to take a paper in…but there could be MORE. Sci feels like this model has potential, and immediately thought of two sets of experiments that would test this stuff.

1) Reward-related behaviors relevant to addiction. If this is a measure of hedonia and reward, will mice learn to nosepoke or press a lever to get access to the smell? How hard will they work for it? Not only that, if you expose mice to things like drugs, how does THAT affect this behavior? Do they start to ignore the ladies in preference for things like coke? Previous studies say it’s a little unlikely, but it’d be an interesting thing to test.

2) Depression-related behaviors. One of the big signs of depression is anhedonia and decreased interest in reward-related stimuli. They did some footshock for learned helplessness here but I don’t think that’s enough. What about chronic social defeat? Does the model respond to acute or only chronic antidepressant treatment? Does it respond to all kind of antidepressants? How does it respond to chronic stress? What about neurogenesis? Does chronic antidepressant treatment and neurogenesis in the hippocampus correlate with increases in sniffing behavior?!

Dang, Sci wants to test this. Sadly, she probably doesn’t have the resources to do it her ownself. But her scientific mind is churning…

One Response

  1. Another track would be to take a more direct look at the stimulus:

    Is urine rewarding if it comes from an immature female? From a pregnant female? Nursing? is there a neat age-dependent desirability curve?

    How about the sniffers? Is there an age-dependent difference in how attractive the urine is? Are high-status males more likely to find it attractive, or less likely? Is there a difference if they’ve recently had sex? With that specific female? Or not had sex in a long time? If they have many females in the neighbourhood, or very few?

    I suspect there’s a thesis or two just in teasing apart these questions about the stimuls effect itself. If I didn’t already have a degree it’d be a fun thing to look at ^_^

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