Middlebury

 

Mark Spritzer

Associate Professor of Biology

Email: 
Phone: work802.443.5676
Office Hours: Spring 2014: Monday 1:30-3:30; Thursday 8:30-10:00
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I am broadly interested in both how selective pressures have shaped behavioral traits and the underlying physiological mechanisms that lead to individual differences in behavior.

The focus of my research is the effects of hormones and social interactions on spatial cognition and adult neurogenesis (new nerve growth), using rats as a model system. We have shown that low testosterone levels impair adult neurogenesis and we have begun to test how other hormones (e.g., prolactin) and social interactions (e.g., sexual and agonistic) influence neurogenesis. The function of these new neurons remains controversial, and we have begun to examine the effects of testosterone on spatial learning and memory using a variety of maze tasks. We have shown that elevated testosterone can improve spatial memory, but the link to neurogenesis remains to be demonstrated. Finally, we are also examining levels of neurogenesis in wild populations of meadow voles. Research in my laboratory has implications for the treatment of a variety of neurodegenerative diseases, and students working with me gain practical experience conducting research projects involving a wide range of techniques: behavioral testing, surgical techniques, immunohistochemistry, hormone assays, and microscopy. The courses I teach involve hands-on laboratory exercise and a variety of discussion and lecture approaches to explore the biological complexity of animals: Animal Physiology, Comparative Vertebrate Biology, Sexual Selection, Endocrinology, and Animal Behavior.

 

 

Courses

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

BIOL 0202 - Comparative Vertebrate Biology      

Comparative Vertebrate Biology
This course will explore the evolution of the vertebrate classes and the adaptations that allow them to live in almost every habitat on Earth. We will study the phylogeny, anatomy, physiology, and ecology of the major extinct and extant taxa of vertebrates and discuss how each group solves the problems of finding food, finding mates, and avoiding predators. Laboratory exercises will focus on the comparative anatomy of a cartilaginous fish (the dogfish shark) and a mammal (the cat). Students will learn to identify the anatomical structures of the vertebrate body and observe the evolutionary homologies. Occasional field trips will introduce the local vertebrate fauna in their natural habitat. (BIOL 0140 or BIOL 0145) 3 hrs. lect./3 hrs. lab

SCI

Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014

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BIOL 0216 - Animal Behavior      

Animal Behavior
The behavior of animals primarily from an ethological perspective, with respect to genetics, physiology, evolution, and other biological factors. The course follows the history and methods of studying individual and social behaviors like feeding, courtship, mating, parental care, defense, predation, and migration. We examine live animals in the field and lab to illustrate such processes as instinct, learning, and communication. Discussion topics include behaviorism, intelligence, and sociobiology, analytical methods from tracking animals in the field to computerized motion analysis in the lab are utilized, and students design their own research projects. Oral, written, and independent projects are required. (BIOL 0140 or BIOL 0145) 2.5 hrs. lect./1 hr. video screen./3 hrs lab

SCI

Spring 2010, Fall 2013

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BIOL 0235 - Sexual Selection      

Sexual Selection
Charles Darwin described sexual selection as the mode of selection that favors traits that enhance an individual’s reproductive success. Sexual selection has shaped behavior, morphology, physiology, and cognitive ability in many species. We will first read portions of Darwin’s The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex followed by journal articles representative of the major questions in the field. Topics will include: mate choice, intrasexual competition, alternative mating strategies, and the role of sexual selection in the evolution of the brain. Students will lead class discussions and write a final paper on sexual selection. This course can be taken for Neuroscience and Biology major credit. (BIOL 0140 and 0145)

SCI

Winter 2014

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BIOL 0350 - Endocrinology      

Endocrinology is a branch of animal physiology devoted to the study of hormones and the endocrine glands that produce them. Hormones are essential for maintaining homeostasis and coordinating biological functions such as growth, reproduction, metabolism, and reaction to stress. This course will cover the diverse mechanisms that hormones use to influence physiology and behavior. We will consider hormone function from comparative, clinical, and environmental perspectives with an emphasis on the behavioral response to hormones. Lectures will describe the cellular and molecular basis of endocrine regulation and consider the function of each of the major hormone groups produced by the body, such as hypothalamic, pituitary, adrenal, and sex steroids. Weekly journal article discussions will focus on current topics in endocrinology. (BIOL 0140 and BIOL 0145) 3 hrs. lect.

SCI

Fall 2011, Spring 2013

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BIOL 0370 - Animal Physiology      

Animal Physiology
This course examines the body functions of animals and humans using general physiological principles and a comparative approach. Lectures will cover the function of each of the major physiological systems (nervous, endocrine, muscular, etc.) and will describe how animal physiology has been shaped by evolution to allow animals to survive in a wide range of environmental conditions. Lectures will focus mainly on physiological processes occurring at the molecular, cellular, and organismal levels. Occasional journal article discussions will provide case studies of current topics in animal physiology. Laboratory exercises, reports and oral presentations emphasize experimental design, analysis and independent study using various methodological approaches including electrophysiology, neurotransmitter manipulations, nutritional analysis, and exercise physiology. (BIOL 0145 and BIOL 0140 or BIOL 0216). 3 hrs. lect/3 hrs. lab.

SCI

Fall 2012, Fall 2014

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BIOL 0475 / NSCI 0475 - Neuroplasticity      

Neuroplasticity
In order for the brain to encode, process, and retain new information, it must constantly change. Neuroplasticity refers to this capacity of the central nervous system to modify its organization in response to endogenous or environmental stimuli. In this course we will discuss the molecular and cellular basis of multiple forms of neuroplasticity within the adult brain (e.g., LTP, synaptogenesis, and neurogenesis) and examine how neuroplasticity contributes to learning and memory, neural regeneration following injury, and various neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, and depression). (BIOL 0216 or BIOL 0370 or PSYC 301) 3hrs sem.

SCI

Spring 2012, Spring 2014

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BIOL 0500 - Independent Study      

Independent Study
In this course students complete individual projects involving laboratory and/or field research or extensive library study on a topic chosen by the student and a faculty advisor. Prior to registering for BIOL 0500, a student must have discussed and agreed upon a project topic with a member of the Biology Department faculty. Additional requirements include participation in weekly meetings with disciplinary sub-groups and attending all Biology Department seminars. This course is not open to seniors; seniors should enroll in BIOL 0700, Senior Independent Study. (Approval required) 3 hrs. disc.

Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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BIOL 0700 - Senior Independent Study      

Senior Independent Study
In this course students complete individual projects involving laboratory and/or field research or extensive library study on a topic chosen by the student and a faculty advisor. Prior to registering for BIOL 0700, a student must have discussed and agreed upon a project topic with a member of the Biology Department faculty. Additional requirements include participation in weekly meetings with disciplinary sub-groups and attending all Biology Department seminars. (Approval required; open only to seniors) 3 hrs. disc.

Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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BIOL 0701 - Senior Thesis      

Senior Thesis
Seniors majoring in Biology who have completed one or more semesters of BIOL 0500 or BIOL 0700 and who plan to complete a thesis should register for BIOL 0701. In this course students will produce a written thesis, deliver a public presentation of the research on which it is based, and present an oral defense of the thesis before a committee of at least three faculty members. Additional requirements include participation in weekly meetings with disciplinary sub-groups and attending all Biology Department seminars. Open to Biology and joint Biology/Environmental Studies majors. (BIOL 0500 or BIOL 0700 or waiver; instructor approval required for all students) 3 hrs. disc

Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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FYSE 1338 - Biology of Stress      

Biology of Stress
Stress is a concept that permeates many aspects of our daily lives, yet most people know surprisingly little about the underlying biological causes of the body’s stress response. In this course we will explore the physiological, behavioral, and cognitive consequences of chronic and acute exposure to stressors. What are the evolutionary benefits of the stress response? How are various diseases linked to stress? Why are some people better at coping with stress than others? We will use Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky as our primary text, and this will be supplemented with readings from scientific journals. 3 hrs sem.

CW SCI

Fall 2011

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MBBC 0700 - Senior Research      

Senior Thesis
Seniors conducting independent study in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry should register for MBBC 0700 unless they are completing a thesis project in which case they should register for MBBC 0701. (Approval required).

Winter 2011, Winter 2012, Winter 2013

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NSCI 0500 - Independent Research      

Independent Research
Students enrolled in NSCI 0500 complete individual research projects involving laboratory or extensive library study on a topic chosen by the student and approved in advance by a NSCI faculty advisor. This course is not open to seniors; seniors should enroll in NSCI 0700. (Approval required)

Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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NSCI 0700 - Senior Research      

Senior Research
This course is for senior NSCI majors who plan to conduct one or more semesters of independent research, or who plan to complete preparatory work toward a senior thesis, such as researching and writing a thesis proposal as well as, if appropriate, collecting data that will form the basis for a senior thesis. Senior NSCI majors who plan to complete a senior thesis should register initially for NSCI 0700. Additional requirements may include participation in weekly meetings with advisors and/or lab groups and attending neuroscience seminars. (Approval required, open to seniors only)

Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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NSCI 0701 - Senior Thesis      

Senior Thesis
Senior NSCI majors who have completed one or more terms of NSCI 0700, who have a GPA of 3.3 in their major courses, and who plan to complete a senior thesis should register for NSCI 0701 for the final semester of the senior thesis process. Students enrolled in NSCI 0701 write a thesis, give a public presentation of their research, and present an oral defense of the thesis before a committee of at least two Neuroscience faculty members. Faculty may recommend High honors in Neuroscience after considering the quality of these components of a student’s thesis and the student’s GPA in major courses. Additional requirements may include participation in weekly meetings with advisors and/or lab groups and attending neuroscience seminars. (NSCI 0700, Approval required)

Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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Selected Publications

Spritzer, M.D. and L.A.M. Galea. 2007. Testosterone and dihydrotestosterone, but not estradiol, enhance hippocampal neurogenesis in adult male rats. Developmental Neurobiology, 67: 1321-1333.

Spritzer, M.D., N.G. Solomon and D.B. Meikle. 2005. Influence of scramble competition for mates upon the spatial ability of male meadow voles. Animal Behaviour, 69: 425-436.