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J Undergrad Neurosci Educ. 2012 Spring;10(2):A132-9. Epub 2012 Mar 15.

An undergraduate laboratory exercise examining the psychomotor stimulant effects of caffeine in laboratory rats.

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  • 1Department of Psychology and.


This paper describes an exercise in a Systems and Behavioral Neuroscience with Laboratory class, an introductory laboratory class taken by Barnard College students majoring in a wide range of academic topics. The study took place over three weeks, allowing students to assess the effects of caffeine on motor stimulation in laboratory rats. The within-subject design involved injecting rats with three different caffeine doses and measuring five different motor outputs in a standard open field. Students completed four different assignments related to this study, demonstrating acquisition of the stated learning goals. This lab exercise allowed students to learn about basal ganglia neural circuitry and stimulant pharmacology, to work directly with an animal model, and to generate enough data to perform statistical analyses. Course evaluations suggest that students liked learning about caffeine, a stimulant many of them have personal experience consuming. They also expressed appreciation for working with rats and for learning how to analyze data. This study can easily be implemented at most undergraduate institutions under minimal cost. The wide-ranging effects of caffeine also permit for flexibility in experimental design, allowing instructors and students options for different avenues of investigation.


basal ganglia; caffeine; motor stimulation; open field; rat; stimulant

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