Gianna M. ’19 won the Albany Brain Bee competition this past weekend The Albany Medical Center. The Brain Bee is a neuroscience competition. Gianna qualifies for the national competition in April in Hershey, PA. There were over 40 students from area schools – public and private. We had 4 students competing on behalf of AAG: Gianna, Maya R.’20, Kai H. ’20 and Jade C.’20 with Maya and Gianna qualifying for the finals. Gianna is the president of the Neuroscience Club and organized practice sessions this fall and winter for the students. She also served as a Brain Bee Ambassador as someone working to encourage students learn about to join the competition.
Gianna has been participating in Parkinson’s Disease (PD) Research at Albany Medical College hoping to find a novel site for Deep Brain Stimulation as a treatment for Parkinson’s patients. Gianna performs all steps of the experimental procedure. In order to later test if the therapy works on a Parkinsonian brain, the team must generate a Parkinsonian model. Step one is to perform a PD lesion craniotomy surgery on a model organism to produce a hemiparkinsonian model. Gianna does this by injecting a neurotoxin into a region of the brain called the Medial Forebrain Bundle to deplete dopaminergic neurons and induce Parkinson’s in the left side of the model. After a few weeks, she will perform testing to see if the surgery was successful. Once they know they have a viable model, electrodes will be placed in two brain regions to record activity in the motor and sensory regions. After this, they implant an electrode cap into the brain which facilitates a Deep Brain Stimulation protocol.Through this independent lab experience Gianna is learning how to navigate through these new tasks, and able to meet and interact with people she would have never known otherwise! Accountability and responsibility are also a big part of her lab work; her mentor is trusting that Gianna can perform the protocols successfully as my work is actually affecting her project.
For students like Gianna, an independent study is an incredible opportunity we are honored to facilitate.