Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2018

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology

First Advisor

Brian DeDecker

Second Advisor

Zoe Donaldson

Third Advisor

Bilge Birsoy


Parental care is the foundation for development and survival of mammals. Only 3-5% of mammalian species are raised in a biparental care environment with both the mother and the father raising the young. Due to its robust biparental care, the prairie vole was investigated to understand paternal care. To study paternal care, the calcium spiking events in the nucleus accumbens was examined along with the behavior while engaged with their own pups. There is a lack of sex differences in the time spent engaged in parental behaviors with the pups. Further investigation showed a lack of sex differences in the neuronal activity in the nucleus accumbens when engaged with pups. However, when comparing pups to a novel object, there is more reward when interacting with a pup and an overall lack of interest in a novel object, thus showing the specificity of the behaviors the voles engage in with their pups. Overall, there are no sex differences in parental care behavior or neuronal activity in the nucleus accumbens.