Off-campus University of Richmond users: To download campus access theses, please use the following link to log in to our proxy server with your university username and password.

Date of Award

Spring 2007

Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

Dr. Craig H. Kinsley


Multiple, long-lasting biological transformations occur in the female rat (Rattus norvegicus) during and following the onset of pregnancy. One such change is the sudden augmentation in the animal's spatial cognitive ability. Interestingly, this marked increase in the learning and memory capability/capacity of the animal is accompanied by significant increases in dendritic spine density in the CAI region of the hippocampus, the brain region that regulates learning and memory. The current study attempts to elucidate at the genetic underpinnings of the observed hippocampal plasticity occurring in response to the reproductive experience. Based on their previously described functions, mRNA expression levels specific to the following synaptic gene and gene products were assessed via quantitative, real time, reverse transcriptase PCR (qRT-PCR) at time points both during and following pregnancy: brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), cAMP­ response-element binding (CREB) protein, neurotrophic tyrosine kinase, receptor, type 2 (NTrk2), spinophilin, and syntaxin. The preliminary data indicate reproductive experience may alter gene expression, suggesting that the activity of these specific genes may be at least in part responsible for the observed augmentation in spatial memory in response to pregnancy and parity. Such alterations identify a robust and far-ranging modification of basic neuronal activity in the service of the mother's offspring.