Date of Award

Spring 2008

Document Type



Life & Environmental Sciences

First Advisor

Jacqueline Brehe

Second Advisor

Jennifer Glowienka

Third Advisor

Murphy Fox


Though extensively documented, autism is still poorly understood. Possible factors include prenatal or neonatal chemical exposure that causes declined synaptic transmission. One chemical, the pesticide known as chlorpyrifos, has been shown to cause anatomical differences in the areas of rats’ brains that are linked to behavioral symptoms closely related to autism. With the knowledge of the increased susceptibility ofmales to prenatal drug exposure, it was hypothesized that male rats exposed to chlorpyrifos before birth would exhibit such symptoms. Two tests, an elevated plus maze and a Morris water maze, were used to test anxiety and cognition, respectively. Anxiety tests yielded no differences between rats prenatally exposed to the chemical, or between males and females. Similarly, cognition tests showed no such correlations. Though these results suggest no apparent connection between chlorpyrifos and autism-like behavior, it is still unclear whether the rats experienced internal anatomical change due to their exposure. Used as a pilot study, this experiment could be coupled with a cellular analysis to fully illustrate the effects of chlorpyrifos.