SURF

Diana Chernyak

Social Modulation of Sickness Behavior in Prairie Voles

Challenges to the immune system mobilize immune resources to trigger physiological and behavioral changes in a host. Alongside fever and cytokine responses, organisms initiate “sickness behaviors” like lethargy, social withdrawal, and decreased food and water intake to facilitate recovery from illness and prevent disease transmission to conspecifics. Yet, some species mask their sickness behaviors in group contexts to take advantage of survival and reproductive benefits, a form of social modulation. Prairie voles are a unique model for human social behavior, as they form selective, enduring social preferences for opposite-sex mates and same-sex peers, unlike traditional laboratory rodents. However, little research has investigated sickness behavior in this species, particularly in its modulation by same-sex peers, who were previously shown to facilitate recovery from stressors. My research will investigate the extent to which a same-sex peer modulates sickness behavior in male and female prairie voles provide further insight into the impact of social environment on recovery from illness.

Message to Sponsor

I am grateful to the Rose Hills Foundation for granting me the opportunity to focus on my research pursuits and develop my skills this summer. I am excited to collaborate with a host of scientists and other student researchers to further my understanding of life sciences research across the UC Berkeley community. I am particularly looking forward to expanding my knowledge in the field of sickness physiology and behavior with the scientists in my lab and establishing the foundational work for writing my honors thesis the following year.
  • Major: Integrative Biology
  • Sponsor: Rose Hills Foundation
  • Mentor: Annaliese Beery