Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2017

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Ryan Bachtell

Second Advisor

Heidi Day

Third Advisor

Michael Breed

Fourth Advisor

Andrew Gaudet


Traumatic spinal cord injury affects 282,000 people in the United States alone. Individuals often suffer from partial paralysis and chronic pain along with physiological impairments, such as abnormal thermoregulation, decreased motor function, and poor sleep quality. Current clinical therapies focus on symptomatic treatments. Despite extensive research, all of the physiologic effects and the molecular mechanism underlying spinal cord injury, and how they affect each other, remains elusive. Here, we tested whether spinal cord injury disrupted circadian rhythms, which could prolong the recovery process. We used implanted transmitters in male and female rats to measure a marker, body temperature, and an entrainer, activity, of circadian rhythms. In a separate experiment, we use blood samples taken from rats at certain timepoints throughout spinal cord injury recovery to analyze concentrations of glucocorticoids. We found that both male and female injured rats were slightly hypothermic immediately after surgery and hyperthermic in the following days, but body temperature recovered at later time points. Activity was disrupted shortly after injury and similarly recovered in the following days post-injury and glucocorticoids were acutely increased in the days following injury. These results suggest the disruption of circadian rhythms from spinal cord injury at acute timepoints with a recovery in function seen at later timepoints. Measures to keep the circadian rhythm synchronized, such as regulating body temperature, encouraging activity, and limiting light pollution at certain times of day may facilitate recovery from spinal cord injury.