Date of Award

Spring 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS) in Biology




Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that affects people after instances of severe emotional trauma. Research suggests that oxytocin treatment decreases PTSD symptoms. This study served to evaluate the efficacy of intranasal oxytocin pre-treatment on symptoms related to PTSD. The hypotheses are that oxytocin will decrease fear and anxiety, and increase reward-seeking behaviors. Sprague Dawley rats were assigned to three groups (Control, Stress, Oxytocin, and Oxytocin+Stress; n=6 per group) to conduct this experiment. Prior to foot shock treatment, rats were trained to expect a food reward (Kellogg’s Froot Loops) in an open field enclosure. Subsequently, the Oxytocin and the Oxytocin+Stress groups were pre-treated with intranasal oxytocin and then the Stress and Oxytocin+Stress groups were exposed to an inescapable foot shock (a model PTSD inducing stressor). After oxytocin and shock treatments, rats underwent various behavioral tests: re-exposure to the shock chamber to assess fear, elevated O-maze to assess anxiety, and food reward trials in the open field enclosure to assess reward-seeking behavior. The oxytocin treatment decreased fear related symptoms upon re-exposure to the fear conditioning chamber; both colonic motility and freezing time were lower in the Oxytocin+Stress group compared to the Stress group. The foot shock model failed to produce significant behavioral changes related to anxiety and reward-seeking behavior between the Control and Stress groups.

Included in

Biology Commons