University of North Texas College of Health and Public Service Assistant Professor April Becker earned a prestigious 2019 Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from the Oak Ridge Associated Universities for her improvements in behavioral assessment testing for stroke research.
Becker and her team of students developed an automated cylinder test for stroke recovery assessment that involves measuring a mouse’s use of its forepaws when exploring an environment before and after a stroke. Using touchscreens instead of glass cylinders as in the original test, Becker’s automated test allows for the collection of additional data not typically analyzed in the traditional test.
“The manual cylinder test can be time consuming and subjective to score,” said Becker. “Our new automated version will be faster and could provide improved analysis since it will record some new aspects of the lateralized rearing behavior.”
Becker hopes that this new level of test sensitivity will advance the quality of post-stroke deficit assessment in rodents and lead to a better understanding of stroke-related effects and treatments in humans.
The Powe award, aimed at enhancing the research and professional growth of young faculty, is given to professors teaching engineering, sciences, mathematics, policy management or education. Awards from Oak Ridge, a consortium of 121 major Ph.D.-granting universities nationwide, can be used as funds for faculty summer salary, graduate student salary, travel, equipment or other assistance relevant to the faculty member’s research.
Becker worked with College of Engineering students, Bunyong Dejanipont, Dan Do, Fernando Moreno and Harold Santiago Ramos, to design the automated version of the cylinder test. She and Jared Armshaw, a behavior analysis student, will complete the development and validation of the test with the help of other students in UNT’s Neuroplasticity and Repertoire Restoration Laboratory. The idea for this project was supported by Becker’s collaborators, Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Science Vardan Karamyan from Texas Tech University at Amarillo and Mark P. Goldberg, rofessor of neurology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
About April Becker
April Becker is an assistant professor in the Department of Behavior Analysis. She received her B.S. in zoology from Colorado State University. After working in various zoos and aquariums as an animal trainer, presenter and caretaker, she earned her M.S. in behavior analysis from UNT. Becker went on to get her Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas where her work focused on behavioral recovery from brain injury and the use of plasticity-modulating pathways to augment rehabilitation. Becker's research and interests have two aims: to better understand the basic mechanisms of learning and recovery from brain injury and to develop better approaches to rehabilitation.