NIH Postdoctoral Fellow

Common Themes in Reproductive Diversity

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As an NIH CTRD postdoctoral fellow, I examined how the maternal neuroendocrine-microbiome environment shapes offspring development and social behavior in Siberian hamsters.

My first major study investigated how maternal stress and changes to the maternal gut microbiome can interact to have organizational effects that alter offspring development and have lasting effects on offspring behavior.

 

We investigated the interactive effects of chronic maternal stress and manipulations of the maternal gut microbiome on offspring behavior in Siberian hamsters, Phodopus sungorus. We exposed pregnant females to either stress, a broad-spectrum antibiotic, stress and antibiotic, or no manipulations, and quantified their offspring’s social behavior, stress-induced cortisol (“SI-CORT”) concentrations, and gut microbiome composition.

We found that manipulations to the maternal microbiome did alter the microbiome of offspring. We also observed maternal treatment had sex-specific effects on offspring behavior: female offspring from Stressed Mothers were more aggressive than female offspring from other mothers. However, female offspring produced by mothers exposed to both treatments displayed lower levels of aggression.  See more in our recent publication here

Currently Luke Gohmann (undergraduate at Indiana University) is working on an independent project investigating offspring neural development to determine the organizational effects of maternal stress and manipulations to the maternal microbiome.

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Experiment 2: Undergraduate student Kate Adaniya conducted an independent research project investigating consinstency in social behavior.

Animal personality, or consistent individual differences in behavioral traits, is well documented across taxa. Recent evidence suggests personality can change across life stages due to effects of experience or changes in the physiological mechanisms that underlie behavior (e.g., hormones). Puberty, a life stage associated with physical and social changes, could affect individual consistency in behavioral traits. We investigated whether individuals were consistent in their social behavior as juveniles and again after puberty in Siberian hamsters