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Recent Publications & Preprints

Reinforcement learning and Bayesian inference provide complementary models for the unique advantage of adolescents in stochastic reversal

During adolescence, youth venture out, explore the wider world, and are challenged to learn how to navigate novel and uncertain environments. We investigated how performance changes across adolescent development in a stochastic, volatile reversal-learning task that uniquely taxes the balance of persistence and flexibility. In a sample of 291 participants aged 8–30, we found that in the mid-teen years, adolescents outperformed both younger and older participants. We developed two independent cognitive models, based on Reinforcement learning (RL) and Bayesian inference (BI). The RL parameter for learning from negative outcomes and the BI parameters specifying participants’ mental models were closest to optimal in mid-teen adolescents, suggesting a central role in adolescent cognitive processing. By contrast, persistence and noise parameters improved monotonically [...]

Making sense of strengths and weaknesses observed in adolescent laboratory rodents

During adolescence, rodents disperse from their natal site, find a new home, and navigate social relationships and threats. Although rats and mice in the laboratory cannot fully express these natural behaviors, they show striking changes in their affective and cognitive behavior across the adolescent period. In some laboratory-based behavior metrics, adolescent rodents fail to show the same behaviors expressed by adults, but in other metrics, adolescent behavioral performance is more robust or more flexible than at other ages. These data are often interpreted in light of proximate level analysis of development of neural circuits. It is also informative to attempt ultimate-level explanations and consider how sex and species-specific adolescent behavioral changes support dispersal, foraging, and social interactions in the wild. [...]

Sex Differences in Pubertal Circadian and Ultradian Rhythmic Development Under Semi-Naturalistic Conditions

Biological rhythms in core body temperature (CBT) provide informative markers of adolescent development under controlled laboratory conditions. However, it is unknown whether these markers are preserved under more variable, semi-naturalistic conditions, and whether CBT may therefore prove useful in a real-world setting. To evaluate this possibility, we examined fecal steroid concentrations and CBT rhythms from pre-adolescence (p26) through early adulthood (p76) in intact male and female Wistar rats under natural light and climate at the Stephen Glickman Field Station for the Study of Behavior, Ecology and Reproduction. Despite greater environmental variability, CBT markers of pubertal onset and its rhythmic progression were comparable with those previously reported in laboratory conditions in female rats and extend actigraphy-based findings in males. Specifically, sex [...]

Adolescent Development of Biological Rhythms: Estradiol Dependence and Effects of Combined Contraceptives

Purpose Adolescence is a period of continuous development, including the maturation of endogenous rhythms across systems and timescales. Although these dynamic changes are well recognized, their continuous structure and hormonal dependence have not been systematically characterized. Given the well-established link between core body temperature (CBT) and reproductive hormones in adults, we hypothesized that high-resolution CBT can be applied to passively monitor pubertal development and disruption with high fidelity. Methods To examine this possibility, we used signal processing to investigate the trajectory of CBT rhythms at the within-day (ultradian), daily (circadian), and ovulatory timescales, their dependence on estradiol, and the effects of hormonal contraceptives. Results Puberty onset was marked by a rise in fecal estradiol (fE2), followed by an elevation in [...]

Lab News

Dr. Wan Chen Lin

Wan Chen Lin received her Ph.D. in behavioral and systems neuroscience. Congratulations Dr. Lin!

Kristen Delevich Awarded Tourette Association of America Funding

The Tourette Association of America has awarded its Young Investigator Award to Kristen Delevich for her research project, Studying the Influence of Hormones on the Brain. This work seeks to understand the influence of puberty on brain circuits involved in behavioral control, in an effort to elucidate why Tourette symptoms typically change during adolescence. Congratulations, Dr. Delevich!