A Reflection of This Semester

How this semester’s learning relates to my future goals 

Going into the field of neuroscience and psychology often means study hard materials like chemistry and psychological disorders. However, liberal learning integrates aspects of multiple cultures, religions, and perspectives to enhance these subjects. For example, in the neurochemistry class this semester, discussions often included treatment options for different groups of individuals as well as risk factors that apply to some more than others. I will be able to relate back to this learning when working with various clients and populations in the future to provide more equal and competent treatment.

What are highlighted resume skills and competencies that were improved this semester?

One of the major skills that I worked on this semester was leading in discussion and confidence in asking questions. Having discussions about hard topics will continue to be a theme in all of my future studies as well as my career. This is one of the reasons it is important to highlight because it displays the skill to bounce ideas off one another to come up with better thoughts and solutions. Along the lines of discussion, I also became more competent in providing scientific information to the public. Specifically in neurochemistry, my peers and I practiced writing about interesting topics followed by teaching one another to gain a greater understanding on the subject. Overall, collaborating with others and communicating effectively are important skills that I have improved upon this semester and will carry on with me.

What is an example of problem solving using several disciplinary perspectives? 

Through liberal learning, students learn how to incorporate multiple disciplinary perspectives into situations and problems. One example of this treating an individual, who falls into a minority, with therapy. There are several different theories and skills to take on therapy which include taking into account different cultural values. For a therapist who may not be competent in that culture, they must problem solve in order to provide the best treatment possible to their client. One area they must take from is religion because many strong values and beliefs arise from one’s religion. Another disciplinary perspective of their client they must learn would be their families medical background, which may incorporate subjects like biology, neurochemistry, psychology, and more. Lastly, investigating the cultural origin of their client would provide important information to treatment. Especially in mental illness, everyone views the field differently such as taking a more physiological approach rather than focusing on cognitive distortions. Even the relationship between the therapist and the client will be affected by these factors which is why in this situation, the therapist must use several disciplinary perspectives to gain a better understanding of their client.

Liberal Arts Learning 

Liberal learning throughout my time at Concordia has allowed me to grow in multiple aspects instead of solely my major studies. I have learned to integrate multiple subjects together to form deeper thoughts and dialogues. Moreover, I have had the opportunity to apply this learning to real life situations like jobs and internships. Going forward, I will continue to utilize these skills such as leading and communication to benefit my studies and learning in the future.

Psychostimulant Use Disorder (PSUD)

Stimulants: 15+ Facts to Expand Your Understanding of Stimulant Drugs

A. Psychostimulant Use Disorder (PSUD)

PSUD is characterized by the compulsive use of substances like amphetamines and cocaine, in which the user consumes the substance in amounts or methods that are harmful to themselves or others. PSUD is associated with enduring changes in synaptic function and structure, termed neuroplasticity.

A. The Paper

A Review On The Role Of Metabotropic Glutamate Receptors In Neuroplasticity Following Psychostimulant Use Disorder explores the intricate relationship between metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) and neuroplasticity in the context of psychostimulant use disorder. Understanding how mGluRs modulate neuroplasticity in PSUD is crucial for developing targeted therapeutic interventions.

The article begins by highlighting the role of mGluRs in regulating synaptic transmission and plasticity. mGluRs are divided into three groups (I, II, and III), each exerting distinct effects on neuronal activity. Group I mGluRs (mGluR1 and mGluR5) are primarily postsynaptic and potentiate excitatory transmission, whereas groups II and III primarily inhibit neurotransmitter release.

The paper then specifies the alterations in mGluR signaling observed in PSUD. Preclinical studies have shown dysregulation of mGluRs, particularly group I, in brain regions implicated in addiction, such as the prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens. These changes contribute to maladaptive synaptic plasticity underlying addictive behaviors.

After that, the paper examines the bidirectional modulation of neuroplasticity by mGluRs in PSUD. On one hand, excessive glutamatergic transmission associated with PSUD leads to aberrant activation of mGluRs, promoting synaptic strengthening and addiction-related behaviors. On the other hand, activation of mGluRs can also induce synaptic depression and inhibit drug-seeking behavior, suggesting a potential therapeutic target.

C. Treatment 

Treating addiction to stimulants is critical, but especially challenging. Unlike opioids, there is no FDA-approved medication currently available for stimulant use disorders.

The paper suggests the potential of mGluR-based pharmacotherapies for treating PSUD. Preclinical studies have demonstrated the efficacy of mGluR agonists and positive allosteric modulators in attenuating drug-seeking behavior and relapse. However, clinical trials have yielded mixed results, highlighting the need for further research into the precise mechanisms underlying mGluR modulation of neuroplasticity in PSUD.


A Review On The Role Of Metabotropic Glutamate Receptors In Neuroplasticity Following Psychostimulant Use Disorder

Psychostimulant Use Disorder (PSUD)


Final Reflection

A reflection on my final Neuroscience course at Concordia College

  • What kinds of learning occurred for you during this semester?

    • Primarily this course offered an opportunity to “put the pieces together” that I had accumulated throughout my neuroscience degree at Concordia. While taking courses, its often difficult to accurately judge how well the material you learn is sticking. I often felt that I was not retaining as much as I should have been from class to class. Neurochemistry was a great opportunity to prove myself wrong. Much of the information was familiar from past lectures, but now presented in a more applicable context that allowed me to connect what I had learned in the last 5 years of school.
  • How do the skills, competencies and knowledge gained in the experience relate to your future goals?

    • To be blunt, my STEM degree (Neuroscience) has been completed out of a general curiosity for the subject, instead of any grand plans of continuing on to graduate school or a research position in a lab. The skills sharpened in Neurochem though are widely applicable to life outside the sciences, or academia for that matter. I am very glad to have had time to develop the ability to comprehend academic papers, discus them with peers, and explain their complex aspects to those unfamiliar to the content.
  • What does learning at a liberal arts institution mean to you?

    • To me it means being open to the wide swath of experiences the world has to offer. I am so extremely grateful for the opportunities I have had here at Concordia. From my work in the theatre to the neuro lab, constructing my massive sculpture installation, and working on a Mars base analogue, I feel that I have taken great advantage of the liberal arts. By getting hands on experience in a huge variety of topics, I feel that I am leaving Concordia as a well-rounded person that has the ability to work on and solve a broad range of the world’s problems.
  • If you were to highlight on your resume a skill or competency that you improved upon this semester, what would you be sure to include?

    • I would highlight my ability to simplify and re-frame scientific concepts. I often found I was able to offer a quick metaphor or analogy that answered the question posed by my peers. This course offered me an extended period in which to hone that skill.
  • Describe an example of solving a problem using several disciplinary perspectives.

    • I approach all of my work in art from the same perspective I approach my work in the sciences. My familiarity with the scientific method has led me to use it in all aspects of my life. When beginning a sculpture, for example, I will first perform background research on adjacent work, materials, and techniques. Then I form a sort of hypothesis, or direction I want my artistic experiment to head in. I then develop an outline of processes I need to undertake to complete the sculpture. While I complete those steps, unexpected things occur, to which I react and shift the sculpture. At the end of the process, I evaluate the results of my work, and present it at a show or online. I am being creative to solve the problem of creating something, but my approach to the work comes from my experiences with academic research.

Neurofibrillary Tangles: The Rubble of Alzheimer’s Disease

Insulin is a signaling molecule that is found throughout the body and brain. Though it is most often associated with diabetes mellitus, insulin and its downstream signals also play pivotal roles in the development and function of the brain. This has led researchers to explore the role insulin signaling may play in the development of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

AD is an extremely common neurodegenerative disease that is characterized by the presence of neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) and amyloid-beta plagues. These physical aspects of the disease cause the psychiatric symptoms most people associate with AD. Consensus on how the NFTs, and beta plaques cause neurodegeneration has effectively been reached. The question remains on what causes these structures to form[1].

Insulin and the hallmarks of AD

When insulin’s signaling pathway is disrupted, the condition is called “brain insulin resistance” and it is hypothesized to be a leading cause of AD pathologies, including NFTs and beta plaques which lead to cognitive impairment.


Neurofibrilarry Tangles form via the accumulation of hyperphosphorylated tau proteins. Once formed, NFTs wreak havoc on the interior functions of neurons. The tangles block up the inside of the cell and prevent critically important molecules from reaching their destinations.

What are Tau Proteins?

Tau are microtubule associated proteins that help to stabilize the cytoskeleton of the neuron. A stable cytoskeleton is important to the health of most cells, but it is critically so in neurons. The microtubule cytoskeleton inside of neurons does not merely give the cell its shape. Microtubules form a network of transportation pathways inside the neuron that allow important molecules to efficiently travel the often-expansive length of the axon. In addition to transport, microtubules in neurons are what allow them to make new connections or prune old ones. Microtubules literally build and maintain our memories, and microtubules are stabilized by tau proteins. The tau proteins that make-up NFTs are dissociating from the microtubules and accumulating, basically into junk[2].

What causes tau to become Hyperphosphorylated?

In an insulin resistant brain, the regulatory pathways that are responsible for the breakdown of tau protein accumulation stop working. When insulin release inside the brain does not induce a cellular response, Glycogen synthase kinase-3 becomes activated. GSK-3beta activation leads to both the accumulation of amyloid beta plaques, as well as tau hyperphosphorylation.

Amyloid beta-plaques:

In addition to the formation of NFTs, insulin resistance has been linked to the formation of amyloid beta plaques. This occurs because of an overabundance of insulin in the brain. The extra insulin uses up the available insulin degrading enzyme, which has been observed to play a crucial role in the breakdown of amyloid beta[3].

Artstract #1



  1. Akhtar and S. P. Sah, “Insulin signaling pathway and related molecules: Role in neurodegeneration and Alzheimer’s disease,” Neurochemistry International, vol. 135, p. 104707, May 2020, doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2020.104707.


E.-M. Mandelkow and E. Mandelkow, “Biochemistry and Cell Biology of Tau Protein in Neurofibrillary Degeneration,” Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med, vol. 2, no. 7, p. a006247, Jul. 2012, doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a006247.


  1. Akhtar and S. P. Sah, “Insulin signaling pathway and related molecules: Role in neurodegeneration and Alzheimer’s disease,” Neurochemistry International, vol. 135, p. 104707, May 2020, doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2020.104707.


Treating Brain Cancer Using Signaling Pathways

Glioblastoma (GBM), a cancer of the astrocytes which support brain neurons, is the most common brain cancer. This cancer is particularly difficult to treat due to its highly invasive nature, the cellular heterogenicity of the tumors and the vital signaling pathways that the cancer manipulates. For these reasons GBM can be very difficult to treat, leading it to be a cancer with one of the worst survival rates. Novel treatment options are being developed with hopes to improve survival rates by manipulating signaling pathways that are aiding in the development of these cancer cells such as the MAPK, PI3K, and cAMP pathways [3].

Figure 1: The MAPK pathway begins with a ligand binding to an RTK receptor, which allows for the SH2 domain of the adaptor protein to bind and recruit SOS. SOS exchanges GDP for GTP, activating RAS and the kinase cascade. Vemurafenib is a drug used to inhibit RAF in GBM treatment. [3]
The MAPK pathway (Figure 10 is a receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) pathway that regulates cell proliferation, cell survival, and metastasis. When this pathway is overactive, GBM prognosis is worsened. This pathway can be affected at different points in the process which can elicit different results. The epidermal growth factor (EGFR) gene is commonly upregulated in GBM. EGFR is a growth factor ligand that binds to the RTK receptor and activates the signaling process. Similarly, NF1 (a negative regulator of the pathway) is absent or inactive in some GBM cases which also will allow for greater MAPK signaling [3].

The PI3K pathway (Figure 2) is another RTK pathway that is overactive in GBM. When PI3K activation occurs, it leads to activation of Akt and mTOR, synthesizing proteins which can stimulate cancer cell growth. For this reason, BKM120 is a drug that is used to inhibit PI3K [3].

Figure 2: PI3K activation begins with a ligand binding to an RTK receptor which recruits GTP-activated RAS to begin the signaling process which can result in cellular growth and proliferation. [3]
Figure 3: The cAMP pathway is a GPCR pathway that can aid in cellular regulation of apoptosis, inflammation, differentiation, and proliferation. [3]
A third pathway related to GBM development and treatment is the cAMP pathway. Unlike the previous pathways, cAMP tends to e under-activated in tumors. This pathway uses a G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) which, when activated, uses adenylyl cyclase to convert ATP into cAMP, a second messenger. This pathway is negatively regulated by phosphodiesterases (PDE). In order to increase the amount of cAMP, which can induce apoptosis of cancer cells, PDE-inhibitor drugs are used [3].

The MAPK, PI3K, and cAMP pathways all converge at CREB (Figure 4), a transcription factor that is positively correlated with patient survival of malignancies. Therapeutic interventions targeting this convergence could be very effective at treating these signaling dysregulations associated with GBM. Utilizing nodes of convergence between pathways as treatment targets may also reduce the toxic load associated with chemotherapies [3].

Figure 4: The MAPK, PI3K and cAMP pathways all converge at the transcription factor CREB. Upregulation of CREB is a potential treatment target that can mitigate the proliferation of cancer cells. [3]
Because of the heterogenous nature and adaptability of cancer cells and GBM cells specifically, utilizing a single drug with a single target that could affect multiple pathways could be extremely helpful in improving the survival rates with these types of cancers.


(1) Glioblastoma: What Every Patient Needs to Know. Glioblastoma Foundation. https://glioblastomafoundation.org/news/glioblastoma-multiforme.
(2) Brittany Ferri. The Anatomy of Astrocytes. VeryWellHealth. https://www.verywellhealth.com/astrocytes-anatomy-4774354.
(3) Fung, N. H.; Grima, C. A.; Widodo, S. S.; Kaye, A. H.; Whitehead, C. A.; Stylli, S. S.; Mantamadiotis, T. Understanding and Exploiting Cell Signalling Convergence Nodes and Pathway Cross-Talk in Malignant Brain Cancer. Cellular Signalling 2019, 57, 2–9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cellsig.2019.01.011.
(4) Morrison, D. K. MAP Kinase Pathways. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol 2012, 4 (11), a011254. https://doi.org/10.1101/cshperspect.a011254.
(5) Receptor Tyrosine Kinases (Newer Version); 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-osiUGKsu7o.
(6) Fruman, D. A.; Chiu, H.; Hopkins, B. D.; Bagrodia, S.; Cantley, L. C.; Abraham, R. T. The PI3K Pathway in Human Disease. Cell 2017, 170 (4), 605–635. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2017.07.029.

End of the Semester

This semester neurochemistry broadened my understanding of neurotransmission and synaptic plasticity by engaging in oral and group discussions. Exploring topics such as dopamine’s role in reward pathways and serotonin’s impact on mood improved my knowledge and ability to communicate complex ideas effectively. Discussing real-world applications of neurochemistry, such as in neurological disorders, emphasized the real-world experiences.Overall, the emphasis on oral communication in this course significantly enhanced my confidence and skills in scientific discourse.The skills, and knowledge gained in this class can relate to future goals in a healthcare career. Understanding neurotransmission, brain function, and mechanisms laid a strong foundation for understanding neurological disorders and psychiatric conditions, which are prevalent in healthcare. Effective oral communication developed through discussions and presentations is crucial for conveying complex medical information to patients and colleagues. Additionally, critical thinking skills learned in neurochemistry are vital for problem-solving in healthcare settings, whether diagnosing conditions or exploring treatment options. Overall, the insights gained from this course directly support my aspirations in healthcare by preparing me to contribute meaningfully to patient care and biomedical research.Learning at a liberal arts institution means studying a various subjects beyond just your major. It’s about developing skills like critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving that are valuable in any career. You learn to see issues from different angles and appreciate diverse perspectives. It’s an education that focuses on developing well-rounded individuals who are adaptable and curious about the world around them.During the Neurochemistry oral class, I improved my listening skills by actively engaging in class discussions and presentations. I learned to better understand complex scientific topics by taking effective notes during lectures. Participating in group discussions also helped me listen attentively, consider different perspectives, and contribute to scientific conversations. These experiences have enhanced my ability to listen effectively and communicate clearly, which are important skills for success in neurochemistry.

Childhood obesity and how healthcare professionals can approach it using different perspectives.  Healthcare providers specializing in pediatrics and nutrition would assess the impact of childhood obesity on children’s health, including associated risks like diabetes and heart disease. Nutrition experts would analyze eating habits and create personalized plans for healthier diets. Exercise specialists would design fun and safe physical activities to improve fitness levels. Public health experts would look at community factors affecting obesity, such as access to healthy food and safe play areas. Psychologists would study behavior patterns and develop strategies to encourage healthier choices. By combining these perspectives, the team can develop effective programs and interventions to prevent and manage childhood obesity, promoting better health outcomes for children and families.

The Cycle of Obesity


Obesity is an extremely dangerous and costly condition affecting 41.9% of US adults and 19.7% of US children and adolescents. This is not just as issue in the US; obesity also affects 650 million adults worldwide [1]. These statistics are alarming, but even more concerning is the fact that these numbers are expected to increase significantly in the coming years. How is it possible that so many people are being affected by this condition? Aside from obvious genetic, epigenetic, and environmental influences, the key stimulus that kickstarts the metabolic changes associated with obesity is overnutrition which leads to altered chemical signaling within the body [2].

Food intake affects and is affected by two sets of neural pathways (Figure 1) within the melanocortin system of the hypothalamus. These two pathways lead to behavioral expressions of energy expenditure and caloric intake with the goal of maintaining nutritional homeostasis. The agouti-related peptide (AGRP) pathway is orexigenic, meaning it induces feeding, and it works antagonistically to the anorexigenic proopiomelanocortin (POMC) pathway which restricts feeding behaviors. Insulin and leptin are hormones that are released following food intake to inhibit AgRP neurons and activate POMC neurons. This sends neural signals to decrease food intake while increasing energy expenditure to limit overnutrition. When insulin and leptin are no longer present in the receptors, feeding behavior will be triggered and energy expenditure should decrease. [2].

Figure 1: Hypothalamic regulation of feeding behavior and energy expenditure homeostasis occurs via two antagonistic pathways. These pathways are regulated by insulin and leptin which are released with food intake. On the left, insulin and leptin inhibit the orexigenic AgRP neurons and excite the anorexigenic POMC neurons. This will send a signal to stop eating. On the right, the neurons are experiencing insulin and leptin resistance. Because insulin and leptin cannot send their signals, AgRP neurons will not be inhibited and POMC neurons will not be excited. There will not be a signal of satiety sent to the hindbrain (NTS) so feeding behaviors will be increased. [2]

Signaling Dysruption

Insulin and leptin signaling dysregulation are one of the first changes that occur in the development of metabolic syndrome and obesity. Just three days of feeding on a high fat diet can significantly reduce hypothalamic insulin sensitivity. This occurs when the insulin receptors are receiving too much input. When there are too many signaling molecules trying to bind to receptors, the receptors become desensitized to the constant stimulation of insulin. When insulin sensitivity is reduced, anorexigenic signals are not able to be properly sent to the brainstem (Figure 1). This not only induces more feeding behavior leading to body weight gain, but also leads to a state of hyperinsulinemia which produces other negative effects [2,3].

High fat diets also affect other signaling pathways in the hypothalamus. Proinflammatory gene expression in the hypothalamus occurs via the IKK complex and NF-kB activation. High fat diets also can impair insulin action by phosphorylating and inhibiting the insulin receptor substrate proteins at serine 307. This is another mechanism that promotes activation of the AgRP neurons (Figure 1) which induces over-eating behaviors [2].

The Cycle

Although there are many different mechanistic explanations for the changes we see in hypothalamic signaling, they all come from the same stimulus and produce similar behavioral and physiological responses. High fat diets are the impetus for each of these metabolic alterations, and each of these alterations produce negative effects of insulin/leptin resistance, increased food consumptions, inflammation, and eventual weight gain. When a high fat diet is consumed regularly, both the acute and long-term effects perpetuate the same behaviors – over fueling and under activity.

Image 1: A representation of the dopamine reward pathway in the brain. Inflammation of hypothalamic neurons can alter this pathway, leading to increases in highly rewarding behaviors. Eating hyper palatable foods activates this pathway leading to rewarding these types of behaviors.

The inflammation associated with obesity specifically affects the brain structures involved in reward and feeding behaviors. Because of this, the reward pathways in the brain seek out more highly-palatable high fat foods, further perpetuating this cycle. Inflammation also affects peripheral tissues and organs within the body leading to negative effects in other body systems.


Through all of the signaling, chemical, metabolic, and behavioral changes that occur with obesity, the most important thing to understand is that they are all connected. Once the cycle of obesity is initiated, it continues to perpetuate itself through all of the mechanisms discussed above. This process is usually initiated by dietary choices and often is not stopped unless deliberate action is taken. The first step in ending the cycle of obesity is bringing awareness to the problem and educating about how and why this is occurring.


(1) Emily Laurence. Obesity Statistics And Facts In 2024. Forbes Health. https://www.forbes.com/health/weight-loss/obesity-statistics/.
(2) Jais, A.; Brüning, J. C. Hypothalamic Inflammation in Obesity and Metabolic Disease. Journal of Clinical Investigation 2017, 127 (1), 24–32. https://doi.org/10.1172/JCI88878.

Spam prevention powered by Akismet