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To bring together the unique resources from a consortium of Atlanta colleges and universities to build a nationally recognized program that will (a) define the interaction of brain processes and complex behaviors, (b) create a cadre of interdisciplinary investigators focused on behavioral neuroscience, and (c) transfer relevant discoveries from the laboratory to the public.

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To become an internationally recognized center for research elucidating the brain mechanisms of social behavior, that it educate new generations of research scientists and students in innovative, interdisciplinary ways of investigating these mechanisms, and that it transmit the excitement of behavioral neuroscience to the general public.

 

 

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CBN Aids in Birth of Giant Panda Cub

CBN Provides Funding for New Cognitive Research on Great Apes

Brains Rule! Neuroscience Exposition Draws Crowds of More Than 4,000 Annually

Workshop Provides Professional Development Opportunity for Georgia Teachers

CBN Aids in Birth of Giant Panda Cub

On the afternoon of Sept. 6, 2006, three years of hard work paid off when Zoo Atlanta announced its giant panda, Lun Lun, had given birth to her first cub, Mei Lin.


As the news spread, people around the world joined in the celebration, including a few investigators in the Center for


Behavioral Neuroscience who began working with the zoo in late 2003 to aid the artificial insemination process in the giant panda.

“I am so happy Lun Lun had a baby,” said Georgia State University’s Mary Karom, laboratory supervisor for CBN Director Elliott Albers. “She certainly gave us a run for our money.”


CBN joined the effort to artificially inseminate Lun Lun after attempts to naturally mate the female panda and her male mate, Yang Yang, were unsuccessful. Albers offered his lab’s assay services to improve the efficiency of the estrogen testing process.


In the fall of 2003, Karom met with Zoo Atlanta Curator of Giant Panda Research and Management, Dr. Rebecca Snyder, and soon began working to validate a commercial kit that would determine Lun Lun’s peak ovulation period in just a matter of hours as opposed to days.


Previously, the San Diego Zoo measured Lun Lun’s daily estrogen levels, but due to the distance from Atlanta, the results would often not be available for a few days. Because pandas only go into estrus once a year, in March, and the peak mating period is a short window of only three or four days, it is critical to predict receptivity of the female for mating right away. Karom’s assay and the close proximity of the CBN to the zoo made quick assay results a reality.


“I could run the assay using our kit and get results to Dr. Snyder in about four hours as opposed to days,” Karom said. “With results this fast, they (the zoo staff) could compare behavioral and hormonal changes in Lun Lun on the same day to determine optimal artificial insemination, and with only a three-day window for conception, this information was very helpful.”


Snyder also composed graphs charting the daily hormone assay results. These graphs, developed in partnership with the CBN, were displayed to the public outside the panda exhibit as part of an information panel about giant panda reproduction.


“The panel explains that hormonal information provided by the CBN is important for predicting ovulation and the birth window for Zoo Atlanta’s female giant panda, Lun Lun,” Snyder said. “The panel also allows us to display a chart of the female’s hormone profile, so visitors can track her progress during estrus and possible pregnancy. This chart is updated daily during estrus and weekly during possible pregnancy. It’s very popular with zoo visitors and helps people to understand the science behind giant panda reproduction.”

View Panda Cam

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CBN Provides Funding for New Cognitive Research on Great  Apes

Great things are happening at Zoo Atlanta. Visitors may have noticed some interesting construction going on in the great ape exhibits over the past year. With the help of CBN, the zoo has added some unique interactive research tools to these exhibits. CBN member and scientist for Zoo Atlanta and the Dian Fossey

Gorilla Fund, Dr. Tara Stoinski, has overseen these changes to enhance the zoo’s ability to conduct research on their gorillas and orangutans, specifically to understand their social behaviors and cognitive abilities. Importantly, visitors to the zoo can observe the research first-hand with commentary from the investigators conducting the research.

Last fall marked the completion of an interactive training panel in the gorilla exhibit. The panel allows zoo keepers to train the gorillas on simple tasks such as openig their mouths for inspections or presenting their arms for injections. These simple tasks help the keepers to conduct routine examinations of the gorillas without anesthetizing them, a huge convenience for the keepers and gorillas.


More recently, Dr. Stoinski began conducting studies on tool use in the gorillas using the training panel. These studies involve presentation of food-filled PVC pipes through the panel’s steel mesh screen. “Given that tool use by gorillas is relatively rare, our goal with this task is to determine whether the gorillas will figure out how to get to the food in the pipes using tools and how use of tools to obtain food might spread socially through the gorilla group at Zoo Atlanta,” said Stoinski. “Thusfar, we have observed one female gorilla consistently using tools to obtain the food; however, even though the other gorillas have watched this individual use tools and obtain food successfully, they have not used tools themselves.”


The gorillas aren’t the only apes at Zoo Atlanta getting some habitat modifications. Recently, a new tree structure was completed in the orangutan exhibit. This is not just any tree. This tree houses a large touch-screen computer built to be flush with the tree’s outer surface. The orangutans, who have already been trained to use to computers for cognitive tasks behind the scenes, will now be able to perform cognitive tasks on the computer screen out in the open where visitors to the zoo can watch. Zoo visitors will hopefully be able to compare their own cognitive abilities with the orangutans’ by completing the same cognitive tasks on another computer touch-screen that will be placed in the observation area beside the orangutan exhibit.


“We are very excited about the possibilities for research here at Zoo Atlanta.” said Dr. Stoinski. “I am hoping to be able to collaborate on this research with my colleagues from the CBN .”

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