Faculty Mentor: Brad Grueter, Ph.D.
Dissertation Description: The effects of prenatal stressors on neural development of reward circuitry
Maternal infection is a risk factor for children developing psychiatric diseases including schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders, however the precise neural mechanisms altered in offspring exposed to maternal immune activation (MIA) have yet to be elucidated. One commonality shared by many of these illnesses are deficits in motivated behavior. The nucleus accumbens (NAc) is a key brain region involved in coordinating goal directed behaviors and dysregulation of NAc signaling has been associated with psychiatric illnesses due to its participation in neural circuitry implicated in learning, reward, and mood. My project aims to show synaptic level plasticity changes as well as differences in NAc dependent reward behaviors in mice exposed prenatally to MIA.