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Author

Nora Tocheny

Date of Award

2015

Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Craig Kinsley

Abstract

Fluctuations in pregnancy hormones have been shown to affect neuronal morphology in mothers within the CAI region of the hippocampus, an area of the brain important for learning and memory. The concentration of dendritic spines, protrusions that are sites of neuronal connections, increase in the maternal brain and are correlated to cognitive enhancements associated with advantageous maternal care toward offspring. Changes in synaptic proteins underlie these observed morphological changes, particularly Spinophilin, a post-synaptic dendritic marker. Spinophilin has been suggested to interact with proteins associated with dendritic spine structure and synaptic transmission, and has thus been a focus of a large body of research investigating the effects of pregnancy hormones on the brain. While many studies have focused on understanding the immediate effects of pregnancy hormones on the brain, little has been investigated, with the exception of behavioral studies, on the long-term effects of pregnancy on protein expression in the brain. The concentration of Spinophilin-labeled dendritic spines and total Spinophilin expression was compared in primiparous rats after an extended period of time post-delivery to age-matched virgins using immunofluorescence staining. Results indicate a potential negative correlation between reproductive experience and Spinophilin­ labeled spine density and Spinophilin protein expression, suggesting Spinophilin may play a role in long-term restructuring of the maternal brain post-pregnancy.

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