Interval Timing Precision in Mice with Chronic Traumatic Brain Injury

Biology major Jamie Carolyn Reulbach ’21 has been working with psychology professor David Freestone and biology professors Sonya Bierbower and Joseph Spagna to study interval timing precision in mice with traumatic brain injuries.

“Interval timing is the ability to perceive, remember, and organize behavior around two points in time in the seconds to minutes range. In humans, traumatic brain injury, or TBI, appears to impair interval timing precision,” says Reulbach, who is completing a pre-medical concentration in the biology major, as well as the biology honors track.  

The study investigated the effect of traumatic brain injury on interval timing and decision making by comparing mice with TBI versus those without.  

“These mice were trained in a food reward task in live-in operant chambers that automatically collected their foraging data. The results of this study so far indicate that TBI mice are slower and more indecisive when the probability of receiving food more readily increases. They appear to over-adjust their behavior in the task compared to the control mice,” explains Reulbach, who has been working on research with Professor Freestone for two years.

“Dr. Freestone has been my mentor since my sophomore year, and was the one who pushed me to become an Honors student. He has helped me through many projects and research, leading to a greater understanding of decision-making processes, data structure, and data analysis as a whole,” she says. “I feel like I have a solid foundation in the world of science and research that I achieved faster than many of my peers, and it gave me a healthy interest in continuing in the sciences and teaching other people.”

After graduation, Reulbach plans to attend graduate school, and then pursue a career in either medicine or further research.