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Open Access Publications from the University of California


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Undergraduate Research Journal 17th Edition

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Validation of a Virtual Reality Flanker Task

The Flanker task is a neuropsychological test designed to measure inhibitory control–the ability to ignore automatic responses in order to reach higher goals. The traditional, tablet form of the Flanker task is widely used and well-cited. Recently, the UCR Brain Game Center has developed a Virtual Reality (VR) Flanker game. After the project is created, the next step is to validate its usefulness with a pilot study, which is the focus of this research paper. This pilot study addressed two central research questions. The first research question was: would the newly developed VR Flanker task measure inhibitory control as well as the traditional, tablet Flanker task? In Pilot Study 1, participants were first randomly assigned to either the VR or computer form of the Flanker task, and then utilized the alternative platform in the second session. The second research question was: would different versions of the VR Flanker task yield different measurements of inhibitory control? In Pilot Study 2, participants were randomly assigned to either the Regular VR Flanker task or the Jitter VR Flanker task during the first session. The second session employed the version that participants were not assigned to in the previous session. The study compared the standard performance measure of the difference in reaction time between congruent and incongruent tasks (Flanker effect) in both Pilot studies. The results demonstrate that VR Flanker tasks are a valid way to measure inhibitory control. Pilot 1 found that Flanker effects produced in the tablet and VR Flanker tasks are similar, while Pilot 2 found that greater Flanker effects could be produced with a different presentation of stimuli in the virtual environment. Once it is established that the VR task measures inhibitory control as well as the tablet version, there would be multiple benefits for neurological tools and testing in different populations. The advantage of a VR Flanker game is that it can serve both as a fun method to assess Flanker effects and as a training tool. Long-term use of a validated VR Flanker task could allow us to emulate real-world situations and lead us to better understand populations struggling with inhibitory control.

Food Justice is Health Justice: Benefits and Barriers to Connecting Student-Run Free Clinics with Student-Run Organic Gardens

Food deserts in low-income and underserved communities pose a significant challenge to ac- cessing healthy, affordable food, leading to poor health outcomes for residents. This project aimed to address this issue by examining the benefits and barriers that arise from connect- ing a student-run community garden (SRCG) with student-run free health clinics (SRFCs) to provide low-income patients with access to sustainable food and nutritional education. Using a case study research model, the study focused on investigating the organizational structure and potential mismatches between the two kinds of student-run systems. Birnbaum’s Higher Education Organization Framework (1992) was utilized to analyze how loosely and tightly coupled organizations can affect the success of collaboration. Vignettes were developed based on participants' observational experiences, and lessons were derived from fields and discussions with participants. The study identified several organizational barriers that complicated the re- lationships between student-run organic gardens and student-run free clinics. The SRCG was a loosely coupled organization with little centralized cybernetic control, and the lack of orga- nizational structure in SRCGs made it challenging to use SRFCs as outlets for providing fresh food to patients in the free clinics. Although connecting SRCGs and SRFCs shows promise for increasing food access and promoting health, the study found that it remains challeng- ing to use gardens as food production systems without creating a more cybernetically con- trolled structure in the SRCGs. By analyzing the benefits and barriers that arise from connecting these two organizations, this project sheds light on the potential of student-led initiatives to address health disparities and promote sustainable food systems in underserved communities.

Identification of Alternatively Spliced Genes in Metabolic Disease Pathways

As of 2022, one-third of US adults experience metabolic diseases. Current therapies treat symptoms but do not address disruptions in signaling pathways of the liver that lead to the development of metabolic diseases. It is now recognized that many genes involved in metabolic disease pathways are alternatively spliced. This research aims to identify real alternative splicing events at genes that can serve as therapeutic targets. Alternative splicing is a critical process by which exons within pre-mRNA are either in- cluded or removed to generate diverse mRNAs and proteins. Transcriptomic data from the livers of both male and female mice under several different conditions–fed versus fasted, wildtype, and ɑ7HMZ mice were analyzed for splicing events using an RNA- seq program, DEXSeq. ɑ7HMZ mice express an alternative form of the transcription factor HNF4a, a critical liver and metabolism regulator. Current RNA-seq programs cannot distinguish alternative splicing from other activity occurring at the gene locus, so manual curation is necessary. Using a curation criterion, I manually analyzed 177 genes identified by the program for alternative splicing events. My analysis identified splicing events at mitochondrial genes usually expressed during fasting conditions and genes whose loss-of-function is implicated in obesity, hyperglycemia, and hypertension. Future research will analyze the mechanistic roles of these mitochondrial genes in various met- abolic disease models.

The Mahsa Amini Revolution

The objective of this paper is to explore what occurred during the 2022 Iranian revolution by comparing how the event is portrayed by American media sources and the testimony of an Iranian American Woman. The paper then explores the relation between women’s bodily autonomy and state governments such as the Iranian and French governments who either enforce or suppress the practice of veiling through law. This paper concludes that American Media portrays the 2022 Iranian revolution from an Islamophobic perspective. This paper offers alterna- tive views in which the practice of veiling and the topic of women’s bodily au- tonomy can be viewed in relation to Islam. Additionally, this paper claims that in addition to Iran, Western countries also inhibit the bodily autonomy of women.

Less is Less: Fast Ad Delivery Undermines Impact

In the digital media age, video advertisements are ubiquitous, including on plat- forms such as YouTube and TikTok. People generally do not like advertisements, especially non-skippable ones, and may prefer to do something else while an ad plays. Following recent research suggesting that faster speeds may increase engage- ment with videos, we examine if speeding up video advertisements will increase people’s attention when watching non-skippable ads as well as improve ad expe- rience and memory. In two experiments, college participants were randomly as- signed to watch an ad (Vrbo in Study 1, Five Star Notebooks in Study 2) at either normal or 25% faster (1.25x) speed. We did not find significant effects of play- back speed in Study 1, perhaps because the ad did not have much informational content. However, in Study 2, we found that participants who watched the ad at 1.25x speed enjoyed it less, remembered it less well, and had lower brand sentiment than those who watched it at normal speed. While these findings need replication and further research to test robustness across a range of ad types and lengths, our results suggest that increase the speed of ads may not be beneficial to advertisers.

Behavioral Effects of Administering CTEP Treatment in a Mouse Model of Fragile X Syndrome

Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) is a genetic neurodevelopmental disorder that causes autism and intellectual disabilities: exhibiting hyperactivity, elevated anxiety, and impaired cognitive/sensory processing. These deficits result from mutations in the X-linked gene Fragile X messenger ribonucleoprotein 1 (Fmr1). Fmr1-knock- out (KO) mouse models have shown consistency with observations in humans, displaying seizures and sensory processing deficits. Utilizing Fmr1-KO mice to identify a potential treatment for these symptoms, we administered a drug called 2-chloro-4-((2,5-dimethyl-1-(4-trifluoromethoxy)phenyl)-1H-imidazole-4-yl) ethynyl)pyridine (CTEP) to KO mice and measured behavioral changes. CTEP in- hibits metabotropic glutamate receptor pathways, which are upregulated in FXS. Two types of experiments were run: open field test (OFT) and elevated plus maze (EPM), commonly used to study anxiety and hyperactivity. Experimental mice with higher anxiety depict decreased exploration and more time spent near the arena’s wall or closed arms. We found that CTEP reduces the distance traveled in the OFT across both wild-type (WT) and KO groups, suggesting reduced locomotion. There were no statistically significant differences in time spent in EPM closed arms between WT and KO mice, indicating no treatment of anxiety. These results suggest that more effective intervention is needed to target anxiety deficits related to FXS.

Patriot Pirates? A Reassessment of American Privateers in the Revolutionary War

All major combatants of the American Revolutionary War (1776-1783) deployed privateers to disrupt shipping in the Atlantic Ocean. American privateers uniquely experienced the war as they broke the British blockade of North America, raided British territory, and disrupted international trade. American privateers are often depicted as legalized pirates or profiteers. How- ever, the reality of privateering is much more complex. This article analyzes primary sources, including memoirs, correspondence, and secondary historio- graphical texts to explore how privateers have been misrepresented in history. These sources reveal a legally and personally complicated affair that does not align with existing understandings of the topic. This article posits that previ- ous understandings of privateering, featured in select primary and secondary sources, are inaccurate and deny historians valuable information. This article seeks to recover privateers’ place in the broader history of the American Rev- olution and allow for an integration of their experiences in future historiogra- phy by uncovering their muddled history.

Does Children’s Negative Emotion Differentiation Relate to Emotion Regulation and Psychopathology?

Negative emotion differentiation (NED) refers to experiencing negative emotions as being different from each other (e.g., sadness vs. fear). Prior literature has linked emotion regulation (ER) to internalizing psychopathology. The current study in- vestigates how NED among pre-adolescent youth may moderate this relationship. Participants include 106 youth ranging from ages 7 to 11 (55.6% male, Mage = 9.3 years). NED scores were computed as the variance in self-reports of nega- tive emotions across multiple time points. ER processes were measured using autobiographical emotion interviews and resting respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) during a baseline task. Children’s anxiety and depression symptoms were evaluated using validated measures. NED is expected to (1) relate to depressive symptoms, (2) moderate the effectiveness and selection of both adaptive and maladaptive ER strategies, and (3) moderate the relationship between RSA and psychopathology. Initial correlational and independent t-test analyses revealed that NED was not directly associated with psychopathology. Instead, NED was positively related to separation anxiety for youth who did not use support-seek- ing strategies. NED was also higher for children who did not use cognitive re- framing strategies compared to children who did. Additional analyses revealed that resting RSA had a protective effect against some facets of psychopathology based on specific regulation strategies used. These findings have implications for inter- ventions (e.g., mindfulness) that can improve mental health outcomes for youth.

KEYWORDS: Emotion differentiation, emotion regulation, child psychopa- thology, respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA)

Change in protease gene expression in an insect pest to plants in the potato/tomato family (Solanaceae)

Lineage-specific gene expansions may allow insects to adapt and diverge functional traits. The Hansen lab’s chromosomal assembly of the sap-sucking potato psyllid (Bactericera cockerelli) previously identified three rapidly evolving genes associated with protease expression. The current study further analyzed whether or not plant diet and insect life stage might impact protease expression. We fed insects differ- ent plant diets of either potato or tomato at two insect life stages (2nd instar and young adult) to test for differences in insect protease gene expression. First, RNA extractions were conducted, followed by quantitative PCR (qPCR). The study used the Δ-Δ Ct method to analyze the relative comparison of gene expression between two genes and the ANOVA test to determine if there is a relationship between the changes in gene expression. Preliminary data revealed a significant difference between the host plant diets potato and tomato for 2nd instar nymphs for two of the three candidate genes. This project begins laying the foundation for iden- tifying the function of species-specific protease genes that are evolving rapidly in the insect, and ultimately these genes may be involved in host plant adaptation.

Effects of Acute Stress on Parental Behavior in Reproductively Naïve Male California Mice

In many biparental mammalian species, such as California mice (Peromyscus cali- fornicus), new fathers exhibit affiliative behavior toward unfamiliar infants, whereas reproductively naïve males show highly variable behavioral responses to infants. The sources of this variation are unknown. We investigated the effects of acute stress on pup-directed behavior in reproductively naïve male California mice. Each mouse underwent three 10-minute tests with an unfamiliar pup at 48-hour intervals. Males in the stressed group (N=22) were stressed using subcutane- ous oil injections, a common experimental stressor used in rodents, immediate- ly before each of the first two tests. The controls (N=22) were left undisturbed to avoid any experimentally induced stress. Compared to controls, stressed mice spent significantly less time performing paternal behavior in tests 1 and 2, while only marginal differences were seen in test 3. In tests 2 and 3, signifi- cantly fewer stressed mice interacted with the pup than controls. These findings suggest that acute stress experienced by reproductively naïve males might con- tribute to both short-term and long-term differences in pup-directed behavior.

Childhood Emotional Abuse, Caregiver Attachments, & Self- Worth: Mechanisms in the Cycle of Violence

The cycle of violence hypothesis holds that experiencing abuse in childhood increases the risk of perpetrating or experiencing violence, particularly in young adulthood. Research sug- gests that childhood maltreatment can increase children’s risk for later violence, particularly in intimate relationships, by weakening their attachments to primary caregivers and lower- ing their sense of self-worth. Extant research has focused primarily on childhood physical abuse and exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV), leaving a gap in our understanding of if and how childhood emotional abuse (CEA) contributes to later violence. This study sought to fill that gap by evaluating if CEA predicted young adult IPV perpetration and vic- timization via compromised attachment to caregivers and self-worth. The current sample of 1,091 college students (Mage = 19.23, SD = 1.65; 68.4% female sex assigned at birth) was ethnically and racially diverse (i.e., 41.9% Asian, 26.5% Latine, 15.9% White, 5.9% Black, and 9.9% multiracial/other). Participants completed surveys in a research lab using a confidential online platform to assess their childhood maltreatment experiences, caregiver attachments, self-worth, and IPV perpetration and victimization. Multiple mediation analy- ses controlling for sex assigned at birth and childhood IPV exposure showed significant effects from CEA to IPV perpetration and victimization via decreased self-worth but not compromised attachment. Follow-up analyses by the sex assigned at birth showed an indi- rect pathway from CEA to IPV perpetration through compromised caregiver attachment for females. Consistent with prior data suggesting more substantial effects for females, CEA con- tributed to IPV victimization for females through decreased self-worth but not for males. These findings highlight the importance of considering sex-specific pathways from CEA to IPV. Our results also illuminate self-worth as a modifiable target of interventions to stem the cycle of violence and attachment security to prevent IPV perpetration among females.

Dressing Up the Revolution: The American Revolution in French Style, 1776-1789

At the time of the American Revolution, French culture developed a fas- cination with America. This trend was expressed in many forms, including fashion, artwork, and architecture, all con-tributing to French narratives about the United States and the American Revolution. The fore-most of these nar- ratives were the portrayals of America as a neoclassical, republican idyll and as a rustic, pastoral return to the romantic concept of nature. French figures who donned the “American” style played a large and often conscious role in crafting such cultural narratives. From 1776 to 1789, the “American” style in France took on a variety of contradictory meanings in French culture and politics. French figures like the Marquis de Lafayette, the Duchesse de la Tour du Pin, and the Marquis de Condorcet took on a French-American identity and styled themselves as “Americans” to express different political views.

By analyzing these individuals’ political views and sartorial styling, this essay examines the impact of French “American” style on the French perception of America. The essay utilizes contemporary publications such as newspa- pers and fashion magazines, as well as the memoirs and correspondence of French fig-ures. Through these sources, I examine the narratives surrounding “American” style and identi-ty in France. This reveals the complex relation- ship between French style and politics, contrib-uting to the ongoing historical discourse on the cultural lead-up to the Revolution of 1789.

Three Classical Theorems on Interchanging Limits With Integrals in Calculus

The interchange of the ‘limit of an integral’ with the ‘integral of a limit’ for sequenc- es of functions is crucial in relevant applications, such as Fourier series for decom- posing periodic functions into sinusoidal components, and Fubini’s theorem for changing the order of integration of multivariable functions. This expository paper reviews three classical results in real analysis for cases where the limit of an integral of a sequence of functions equals the integral of the limiting function: (1) Mono- tone Convergence Theorem, (2) Uniform Convergence Theorem, and the broad- est result, (3) Dominated Convergence Theorem. While proofs of (2) are typically studied in undergraduate analysis, the proofs of (1) and (3) are usually reserved for graduate-level measure theory, where they are taught in a more general context. The purpose of this paper is to summarize and adapt W. A. J. Luxembourg’s un- dergraduate-friendly proof [7] of (3) Arzel`a’s Dominated Convergence Theorem, to demonstrate the nontrivial direction of (1) Monotone Convergence Theorem for Riemann Integrals. Our aim is to demystify the hidden logic involved in these well-established theorems, making them more accessible for undergraduate analysis.