All about mink brains

7 05 2017

Maria leaving has given us a hard deadline to finish some “mink brain” work: assessing regional metabolic activity in the nucleus accumbens.  I first picked up stained slides from Florida (from the brains of Maria’s “mate choice” males) more than two years ago (at an Art Basel, strangely, thanks to my friend Sarah coming from Gainesville). Maria and I then started working on them about 18 months agoinitially relying on Danielle and nice ferret brain researchers from around the world, to help us simply even find this tiny, cryptic region.


In fits and starts between cage size experiments, Maria learnt more about neuroanatomy, and was taught by the lovely Craig Bailey how to use the Biomedical Science department‘s fancy equipment to extract optical density data to quantify staining (here she is, below, now so confident with the fancy equipment that she is about to amaze two Biomedical grad students by fixing the microscope).



Helped by the able Lindsey, once Maria developed a system and could delegate some of the work, data have been steadily accruing since the New Year: a slow, slow process as all done part-time (plus there were hundreds of sections).  But last week we were finally able to analyse them. So… what did she find? The nucleus accumbens is important in stereotypic behaviour, just as in our mouse results, so all this effort was worth it! However, the nucleus accumbens is not affected by enrichment, meaning that we don’t yet have a full explanation for stereotypic behaviour (since it’s massively enhanced by impoverished housing).

IMG_4544My bet is that there are frontal/pre-frontal effects that we’ve just overlooked. Sadly I’m pretty sure those brain regions from these particular mink were chucked out years ago, but we do have one last precious batch of differentially reared brains (from Dana‘s males), and though I doubt the quality of their fixation at the cellular level, looking at them last week (L), superficially it seems they have preserved well so Maria will take them with her to the UK.

And meanwhile, we definitely have a nice publication on our hands!