Date

2019

Major

Biology (B.S.B.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Vinoth Sittaramane

Abstract

Individuals of all ages can suffer from a wide variety of symptoms and disabilities that could be diagnosed as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Due to new methods and technology, individuals are now being diagnosed in the first two years of their life, which is when the signs of ASD are initially exhibited. Individuals diagnosed with ASD share many similar disabilities and symptoms such as hyperactivity to social, visual, and auditory stimuli, as well as hyposensitivity to olfactory stimuli. Neural circuit-based alterations are widely considered as a cause for these behavioral aberrations. We have created behavioral assays using zebrafish larvae to study hyper-responsiveness towards social or visual stimuli, hyper-responsiveness with tactile/touch-based stimuli and remarkable hypo-responsiveness towards olfactory stimuli in autistic patients. This assay has provided baseline behavioral phenotype’s for normal zebrafish larvae when exposed to the different stimuli. The baseline shows the distance moved, time spent, velocity, and movement patterns in the well for the normal zebrafish larvae. Moving forward we hypothesize that zebrafish autistic models will exhibit different phenotypes, which would allow us to screen for appropriate drug candidates for translation to human medicine. The variables that modify the zebrafish larvae’s responses to the stimuli and their ability to learn the stimuli can be tested using these behavioral assays. Modifications that help regulate the behavior and responses of autistic zebrafish larvae can potentially be translated to autistic human patients. This could lead to improved treatment and medications for individuals with ASD.

Thesis Summary

Individuals of all ages can suffer from a wide variety of symptoms and disabilities that could be diagnosed as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Individuals diagnosed with ASD share many similar disabilities and symptoms such as hyperactivity to social, visual, and auditory stimuli, as well as hyposensitivity to olfactory stimuli. We have created behavioral assays using zebrafish larvae to study these stimuli. This assay has provided baseline behavioral phenotype’s for normal zebrafish larvae when exposed to the different stimuli. The baseline shows the distance moved, time spent, velocity, and movement patterns in the well for the normal zebrafish larvae. Moving forward we hypothesize that zebrafish autistic models will exhibit different phenotypes, which would allow us to screen for appropriate drug candidates for translation to human medicine. This could lead to improved treatment and medications for individuals with ASD.

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