Lauren Vetere

Lauren Vetere
Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Bizon
College of Medicine
 
"As a high school student, I was deeply engaged in my biology and psychology courses, and my biology teacher suggested that I explore scientific research as a potential career path. After a brief research experience in a genetics lab during the summer before my junior year of high school, I entered college hoping to find a laboratory experience that aligned more closely with my interests in neuroscience, specifically learning and memory. For many years, I have been curious about how the brain forms and stores memories and how these functions alter our behavior and decision-making. I am also interested in how these processes are altered in aging and neurodegeneration. During my time in the Bizon/Setlow lab, I have had the opportunity to explore various facets of behavioral and molecular neuroscience as they relate to aging, memory, cognition, and decision-making. These experiences have intensified my fascination with brain and solidified my intentions to pursue a graduate degree in neuroscience."

Major

IDS Neurobiological Sciences

Minor

N/A

Research Interests

  • Learning and Memory
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Aging/Neurodegeneration

Academic Awards

  • University of Florida Presidential Scholarship 2013-2017
  • University of Florida Anderson Scholars Award 2015
  • HHMI Science for Life Award 2015-2016
  • University Scholars Program 2016

Organizations

  • UF Neuroscience Club
  • North Central Florida Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience
  • UF Interfaith Ambassadors

Volunteer

  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Brain Awareness Week
  • Alachua County Boys and Girls Club

Hobbies and Interests

  • Creative Writing
  • Playing Ukulele
  • Baking

Research Description

Age-Related Alterations in Executive Function, Decision-Making, and GABA Neurotransmission
As the number of Americans over the age of 65 increases, it becomes increasingly necessary to improve our understanding of the causes and consequences of cognitive aging. Prior research has shown that executive functions such as working memory, which is the ability to hold information ""in mind"" for brief time periods, and cognitive flexibility, which enables alterations to behavior when circumstances in the environment change, are susceptible to age-related decline. Because effective decision-making requires maintaining cost-benefit information and adapting to new situations, executive dysfunction may impair decision-making in aging and make it more difficult for elderly persons to live independently. Using a rodent model of aging, my work seeks to answer three main questions:
1. How is decision-making altered in aging?
2. How do age-related changes in working memory and cognitive flexibility contribute to these changes?
3. How do age-related alterations in inhibitory signaling in the pre-frontal cortex contribute to individual differences in cost-benefit decision-making?
My current and future experiments will utilize various behavioral and biochemical assays to answer these questions.