Riya Ravindran, Class of 2023

About me:

I am a senior at PHS and am currently in my second year of the Research program. My main interest lies in neuroscience, which has stemmed from initial interests in biology and psychology growing up. Outside of educational interests, I love art, reading, karate, and volunteering with HomeFront. This year, I have been working with planaria to study how addiction (a type of “memory”) resides throughout the body rather than just in the brain.

Current Research:

ABSTRACT: Planarian flatworms (Turbellaria) are dorsoventrally flattened, ciliated acoelomates known for their regenerative abilities. Through cephalization, planaria have brains in the head of the anterior region. The structure and function of the planarian brain reveal the similarities between vertebrate brains and those of planaria. Complex neurotransmitters such as dopamine are found in both planaria and mammals, allowing planaria to be effective models of human brain functions. McConnell’s experiment and its many replications have presented the idea of memory residing throughout the body rather than being limited to the brain. Addiction is a learned behavior, and looking at how it passes on through cannibalism could present similar findings to those of McConnell’s. Solutions of 100 µM caffeine, 1% ethanol, 10% jimson weed, sugar, and salt were created, and 10 planaria were addicted over 5 periods; 3 days of addiction and 2 days of withdrawal period. The planaria resided in the solutions for 5 minutes on each addiction day. Controls were also kept in the same conditions. The planaria were measured in movement against grid paper using a count of how many boxes the tail has passed through. Early stages of addiction movement were then compared to later movements. Following the completion of the addiction periods, some planaria (depending on the amount alive) will be crushed and fed to a new generation, others will be put through t-mazes to test addiction, and those left will be cut in half to test regeneration of addiction in the head vs. the tail. The main connection to McConnell’s experiment is the new generation of planaria, which will finally be tested for signs of addiction using t-mazes and movement measuring.