Final Year Project Ideas

Cognitive / Neuroscience

Aversive social experience and depression

Berton et al,2006 – mice repeatedly confronted with stressful encounters with larger dominant animals, became trained to exhibit durable social avoidance – but that this learning failed to take place when BDNF was knocked out from the mesolimbic dopamine pathway, via a viral vector.

– Repeated social dominance paradigm – big mouse every day for 10 days

Berton, O., McClung, C.A., DiLeone, R.J., Krishnan, V., Renthal, W., Russo, S.J., Graham, D., Tsankova, N.M Bolanos, C.A., Rios, M., Monteggia, L.M., Self, D.W., Nestler, E,J (2006) Essential Role of BDNF in the Mesolimbic Dopamine Pathway in Social Defeat Stress. Nature, 311, 5762, 864-868.

Criticism by Kalueff et al – Originators of social defeat paradigm

  • Behavioral and Pharmacological data equate with Social Anxiety (not depression)
  • Ameliorative effects of SSRI’s are (in this case) anti anxiety not antidepressant
  • Chlordiazepoxide (control anti anxiety drug used by Berton) was used in insufficient dosage to affect anxiety
  • BDNF role in maintaining / alleviating depression is more complicated than Berton implies

Antidepressant Mice

TREK-1 / Kcnk2 (serotonergic potassium channel transporter) – expresses strongly in => PFC & Hippocampus -> metacognitive deficits, suicidal ideation => striatum -> emotional memory impairments => amygdala and hypothalamus -> anhedonia / motivational impairment

Knockout mice – increased 5-HT neurotransmission – resist behavioral, models of depression [forced swim, tail suspension, conditioned suppression of motility (footshock), learned helplessness (inescapable shock)] – resist electrophysiological models of depression – reduced corticosterone levels under stress

Offers, potential new route of investigation and treatment

Meditation and vigilance

Society for Neuroscience – Abstracts/Annual Meeting Publications – Oct 16, 2006 – Georgia World Congress Center

Program / Poster: 361.2/DD14 Title: Psychomotor vigilance changes following meditation, nap, caffeine, or exercise Authors: P. KAUL, J. PASSAFIUME, E. KEEFE, *B. F. O’HARA; Institution: Dept Biol, Univ Kentucky, Lexington, KY.

Subjects taught meditation improved performance on Psychomotor Vigilance Task – within subjects design – testing in 3pm – 5.10pm (‘afternoon dip’) – tested prior med, immediately post med, med + 1hr

RESULT: med PVT > caffeine (5mg) > exercise (variable results) > nap (40min) – PVT med improvement increased with sleep deprivation (7 subjects)

Possible confounds: small group (12 med group), previous caffine exposure, inadequate time to recover from sleep, student sleeping patterns


Could depression be the result of a genetic / social stress / environmentally triggered, change in BDNF synthesis – leading to reduced ability to form new schemata / positive schemata

what is remembered = those connected to / congruent with current schemata – resulting in difficulties coping with new stimuli – inability to alter maladaptive schemata

=> Efficacy in cognitive therapy derives from deeper processing of new positive schemata, which alleviates learning difficulties


Status & Infertility

Are levels of coil tailed blocker sperm related to infertility & is this related to male dominance – * beta / alpha relative salary,

  • position in social / work hierarchy,
  • attractiveness (as measured by cohort) ?

Testing the Game

Testing some NLP / Fast Seduction assumptions against reality / evolutionary science

Female mate competition

  • usual assumption – human female mate competition – involves competing only for specific males or a specific quality of male (S+R values)
  • is this true? Or does attaining high status males involve dominance in female groups & managed mating of subdominant females? + subversion of un-allied competitive females mating?


Testing some aspect of the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis

Group Dominance

Group dominance – what qualities predict / dictate dominance?

  • related to group size / membership ?
  • is expertise important? – is the necessarily related to group function?
  • Is amiability important?
  • Age? Wider social dominance?
  • Do factors change in different gendered groups?


Older Ideas

Attractiveness Assessment

Is human male assessment of female attractiveness normally distributed as a function of male attractiveness – ie: do more attractive males perceive female attractiveness more critically; or do all males perceive it similarly and make mate selections based on a determinant of their own attractiveness matched to their partner; or is there no difference (sic)


Metrosexuality as a camouflaging heterosexual male adaptation.


Does drug use (specifically metaamphetamine and opiate abuse) contribute to Ireland’s growing rate of suicide and depression; or are both phenomenon linked to wider issues like social inequality.

Birth Order

Are birth order theories confounded by relationship to chronology of parental sexual relationship? In EEA most children would probably have been born 9 – 12 months into parental relationship and at 12 month intervals thereafter (check with primate studies).

Testing Sociometer Theory

  • Buss (P 365), Leary (1998) Sociometer theory – self-esteem acts as a meter of social regard; when lowered, motivated individuals to seek or improve existing contacts
  • however IRL effect of decreased self esteem decreases sociability
  • Does depression in response to social exclusion lead to skill redevelopment for attraction
  • focusing on marginal skills; cornering the market in EEA as cave painter or tool maker
  • transfers to contemporary geek obsessions


Does modern society provide a selective advantage to cuckolding males – with de-emphasis on chastity, and lowered infant mortality for single mothers?

Accent & Approval

Cross cultural effect of accent and vocal cues on approval and arousal.

  • H1 – single post pubescent men cross culturally will show increased arousal to voices of extra-cultural women [status independent]
  • H2 – single post pubescent men cross culturally will show lower approval of low status male voices
  • H3 – single post pubescent men cross cultureally will show higher approval of high status male voices
  • H4 / H5 / H6 – equivalent for women

Controls Needed

  1. Medias effect on size of ‘cultural milieu’ would have to be determined – which groups are outgroups
  2. Participants cultural exposure
  3. Age
  4. Offspring
  5. Racist bias
  6. Attractiveness of speaker – requires source material to be from broad sample inter-rater rated for attractiveness visual media
  7. Sexual Orientation
  8. Oestrus
  9. Stated accent preferences


  • Voice playback with GSR measures, and handout recording self rated preferences.
  • Are there secondary arousal measures which could enable more direct measures of preference and sexual arousal?
  • May necessitate recording of participants.
  • Recordings should ideally be both naturalistic and neutral in emotional content.
  • Alternately readings could be culled from real world video in language foreign to experimenter; would reduce confound of material. Could however lead to alienation / distraction.

Naive Drug Judgements

Psychologists / doctors naive drug judgments. Genuine criteria about cocktail choice at work. Are judgments reasoned. Or just mix and match, influenced by PR. I.e: do doctors really understand how drug A + B interact, beyond recommended avoided conflicts.


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