PSU scientist awarded $700,000 NSF grant to study biological decision-making
Author: John Kirkland, PSU Media and Public Relations
Posted: June 26, 2018

Portland State University biologist Deborah Lutterschmidt won a $700,000 continuation grant from the National Science Foundation to study an essential choice all organisms make in using their limited resources: whether to produce young or feed and maintain themselves.

“Despite the critical importance of choosing between self-maintenance and reproduction, the mechanisms that shape these decision-making processes are not yet understood,” she said.  

The grant will help pay for students to perform field and laboratory studies on organisms, including studying garter snakes, whose brains go through dramatic hormone changes as they transition from reproduction to foraging. Lutterschmidt and her student researchers will perform experiments in which they will manipulate snakes’ brain chemistry to trigger transitions from one life phase to another. 

“Results from this project will provide a framework for understanding the neurochemical basis of decision-making,” she said.