Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Dr. Linda R. Watkins

Second Advisor

Dr. Andrew J. Kwilasz

Third Advisor

Dr. Jerry W. Rudy

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Alison J. Vigers


Chronic neuropathic pain debilitates millions of lives globally and exerts substantial emotional hardship, particularly in the form of major depressive disorder, on its sufferers. Despite extensive research, the biological basis of interaction between pain and its affective consequences remains largely elusive. A growing body of literature suggests chronic neuropathic pain and major depressive disorder may have similar underlying causes rooted in neuroinflammation. Establishing a paradigm to study the comorbidity of pain and its affective implications would be invaluable in the process of developing holistic treatment options. Here, we investigate the sensitivity of an anxiety-based behavioral test, juvenile social exploration (JSE), at detecting the affective repercussions of chronic neuropathic pain, simulated by chronic constriction injury, in male Sprague Dawley rats over the course of 28 days. Although statistically significant differences in interaction times were observed between the experimental groups on day 7 post-surgery, these differences were not observed on the following days post-surgery. A morphine time course was employed to exacerbate the effects of inflammation with the hope of creating greater separation between the groups but this manipulation produced contradicting behavioral data. A ceiling effect was suspected so a 3-minute pre-exposure trial was conducted; but again, this modification resulted in unremarkable data. Despite the negative results of JSE in this exploratory study, other behavioral assays might prove to be more sensitive at detecting the affective implications of chronic neuropathic pain. Further research into developing a reliable model of chronic neuropathic pain and its affective complications is desperately warranted.