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Psychologist Brings Zebrafish Research to Campus

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It might seem like zebrafish are worlds away from people experiencing disorders such as schizophrenia and autism, says Adam Roberts, but scientific breakthroughs often start with animal models like these.

Cal State Fullerton’s new assistant professor of psychology hopes that his research scanning fish brains can provide clues for understand learning and memory in human beings.

Roberts — who holds a doctorate in molecular, cellular and integrative physiology from UCLA and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — is teaching the “Psychology of Learning and Memory” class and lab this fall, and looks forward to sharing his research with students.

What inspired you to go into the field of psychology?

I chose to investigate psychological concepts because I’m fascinated by how neurons, the basic physiological building blocks of human thought, interact and connect. I’m especially interested in how they modify their connectivity, since these changes affect our behavior.

What are your research interests?

I use larval zebrafish to image neuronal changes in response to learning and memory. The first project I am starting at CSUF is to use optogenetics (the use of light to control cells in living tissue) to rapidly map neural circuits that participate in memory formation or storage.

What do you hope students will learn from your classes?

Minimally, I am hoping the students will learn concepts in learning and memory — from the way habituation functions across the animal kingdom to why they can’t seem to memorize a chain of unrelated dates for their history exam. However, I also hope to spark a sincere interest in the topic and promote scientific thinking.

What would you like the general public to know about your research areas?

Information gained from the line of research I’m pursuing here at CSUF can be used to understand memory formation generally and to further explore the underlying circuit-based dysfunction of numerous disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.