Huzaifa Wasanwala


Huzaifa Wasanwala
Mentor: Dr. Andrew Maurer
College of Medicine
 
"I've always been intrigued by the complexity of the human brain. Its astonishing capabilities ranging from controlling your heart rate to abstract thinking are all accomplished by neurons connected to each other in an intricate weave communicating through an assortment of neurotransmitters. Understanding the nervous system has allowed for several biomedical advances from DBS for Parkinson’s to functional prosthetics. Having the opportunity to further probe our understanding of neuroscience has attracted me to research at UF."

Major

Biomedical Engineering

Minor

N/A

Research Interests

  • Hippocampus
  • Prefrontal Cortex
  • Decision-making

Academic Awards

  • Bright Futures Scholarship 20`4
  • Dean's List 2014-2016
  • John W. and Mittie Collins Engineering Scholarship 2016
  • University Scholars Program 2016

Organizations

  • Beta Chi Theta
  • UF Biomedical Engineering Society

Volunteer

  • American Heart Association
  • Mobile Outreach Clinic
  • Williams Elementary School

Hobbies and Interests

  • Basketball
  • Reading
  • Traveling

Research Description

Decison-making Dynamics in Delay Discounting Task
Humans are often faced with decisions where they have to weigh the value of a reward versus the time it takes to obtain that reward. This balancing phenomenon can also be observed in rodents. Faced with a decision, rats often present behavior of looking back and forth deciding between options. This phenomenon has been coined as vicarious trial and error (VTE; Muenzinger, 1938). VTE behavior has shown that it can be an indication of a neuroeconomic valuation process for rats (Glimcher, Camerer, & Poldrack, 2008) and can correspond to place cells in the hippocampus sweeping forward to evaluating future possibilities. Thus, the hippocampus has been associated with allowing a rat preliminary analysis of a potential decision by imagining possible outcomes (Johnson& Redish, 2007). Additionally, the decision-making process is influenced by the Orbitofrontal Cortex (OFC) which links incentive value of a reinforcer to a cue (Setlow 2001). A “delay discounting” (Rachlin and Green, 1972) manipulation task is a method that can be used for observing decision-making phenomena. Delay discounting is defined as the decrease in value of a reward with an increasing wait time. One way in which this is examined involves the presentation of two choices of unequal value to a subject. When asked to choose between a large reward and a small reward rats will consistently select the larger reward (Simon et al., 2010; Roesch et al., 2012a). Similarly, if asked to select between an immediate reward versus an equal magnitude reward that is delayed rats will select the immediate reward (Simon et al., 2010). When the two variables of time to reward and reward magnitude are integrated into an intertemporal choice task, normal adult rodents shift their preference to the short-delay small reward as the delay for the large reward increases. The goal of this study is to determine the role the hippocampus and OFC play in intertemporal choice. Young rats (3-4 m) will be cannulated bilaterally in the OFC and CA1 region of the hippocampus. The rats will be infused with a GABAA receptor agonist (muscimol) either bilaterally, ipsilaterally, or contralaterally. The infused rats will then be run in an intertemporal choice task where their VTE and delay discounting behavior will be observed and compared to a non-infused baseline. The discrepancies in behavior between the non-infused and infused rats will unveil how the hippocampus and OFC function in intertemporal choice.