Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Heidi Day

Second Advisor

Dan Barth

Third Advisor

Ricardo Stephen


Autism Spectrum Disorders in humans are diagnosed 3.1 times more in males than in females (Loomes et al., 2017) in addition to a 30% bidirectional comorbidity with epilepsy (Lewis et al., 2018). This model of stress terbutaline and potential treatment, M. vaccae,hope to establish a method by which to study this comorbity. This model has proved successful at producing ASD like behavior and seizures in male rats in recent years (Bercum et al., 2015).

Female Sprague Dawley rats underwent a stress protocol of maternal and developmental stress with Terbutaline injections. Half of the treatment animals were given injections of Mycobacterium Vaccaeand half a vehicle injection. Behavioral tests were conducted to determine ASD like behavior.

ASD like behavior was seen in the females rats with regard to sociability. M. vaccaeameliorated this behavior in the three-chamber social task. Neither marble bury or defensive burying tasks revealed ASD like behaviors. The demonstrated differences between males and females could be the result of the physiological sex differences that produce the skewed ASD sex ratio. It is also possible that the same tasks used in measures of male behavior are not accurate measures of the same behavior in females.

Further research to determine the model’s role in epileptogeneis would be needed to identify it as a comorbid model. Use of different behavioral tasks to determine if data in females that differs from males is due to differences in behavior from the model or physiological sex behavioral differences would be necessary to substantiate the legitimacy of the model in both sexes.