Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2017

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Dr. Steven F. Maier

Second Advisor

Dr. Michael V. Baratta

Third Advisor

Dr. Heidi E. W. Day

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Kathryn L. Plath


Women are at a higher risk for developing neuropsychiatric conditions including generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression. Moreover, traumatic life events may provoke disease development to a higher degree in women than in men. The mechanisms underlying these differences are unknown, however it has been argued that they emerge, in part, from different coping responses to adverse life events. In humans, factors associated with resilience revolve around coping of which actual or perceived behavioral control over stress is a critical element. Work conducted almost entirely with male rats has demonstrated that behavioral control over stress potently modulates the neurochemical and behavioral outcomes of the stressor. Prior work in male rats has demonstrated that the protective effects of controllable stress depend on the medial prefrontal cortex and its top-down inhibition of stress-induced limbic and brainstem structures. Whether stressor controllability phenomena are present and whether a similar resilience circuitry is engaged in females is unknown. The work presented in this thesis provides the first evidence of sex-based differences in an animal model of stress and coping, which may serve to inform treatment strategies for neuropsychiatric disorders in women.