Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience: My current research interests focus on the effects of adolescent nicotine exposure on learning and memory mechanisms exhibited either immediately after exposure or at a later time point. I am exploring the interaction between adolescent memory and drug reward to determine whether addictive behaviors early in life are a result of increased reward susceptibility or stronger formations of the drug related memory.
I am currently a first year doctoral student and research assistant in Dr. Smith's laboratory and recently completed my master's thesis in August 2010. My interest in biopsychology started as a sophomore at William and Mary. I was sitting in Psyiological Psychology and wondered why I could not feel my hand, which was numb, despite the fact that I could see myself touch it with my left finger. I soon joined an animal research lab, and have worked with rats ever since in attempt to understand the behavior output of the brain's chemistry.
During my master’s thesis, I utilized a conditioned place preference paradigm to test for differences in place preference induction, extinction and reinstatement in cocaine CPP following adolescent nicotine exposure.
Fernandez, G.M., Brielmaier, J.M., McDonald, C.G., Smith, R.F. Chronic adolescent nicotine exposure has no effect on cocaine conditioned place preference induction, extinction and reinstatement in adult rats. (Society for Neuroscience, 2010)
Brielmaier, J.M., McDonald, C.G., Bergstrom, H.C., Fernandez, G.M., Smith, R.F. Environmental novelty modulates long-term sensitization to nicotine following a single exposure in adolescence. (Society for Neuroscience, 2009)