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Author

Shannon Weber

Date of Award

2015

Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Craig Kinsley

Abstract

The effects of maternal hormones are widespread, and the brain is largely affected during pregnancy. Many researchers had looked at the post-mortem brains of mother and non-mothers to assess neuroanatomical change. Utilizing novel neuronal culturing techniques, we assessed the changes in a more controlled, in vitro setting. When dosed with concentrations of estradiol (E2) and progesterone (P) associated with healthy pregnancy in rats, hippocampal neuron cultures saw a significant increase in the number of axon branches, dendritic spines, and connections with neighboring neurons. This implicated hormones, specifically estradiol and progesterone, as the major cause of neuroanatomical change in the mother brain, an important discovery for neuroendocrinology. The anatomical changes seen can be correlated with increase memory capacity and other cognitive advancements in mothers, helping to solidify the understanding of the sequence of changes over pregnancy.

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