Date of Award

Spring 5-16-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

MS Experimental Psychology




Michael Vigorito, Ph.D

Committee Member

Amy S. Joh, Ph.D

Committee Member

Amy Silvestri Hunter, Ph.D

Committee Member

Kelly Goedert, Ph.D


schizophrenia, rat, lipopolysaccharides, neurodevelopmental, short-term memory, cognitive


Schizophrenia is a debilitating disorder characterized by positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms. Cognitive deficits affect one’s learning and memory due to a dysfunction in the brain, inhibiting a normal functioning life. The self-medicating hypothesis states that ninety percent of people with schizophrenia smoke, because nicotine use improves these cognitive deficits. The cytokine hypothesis states that inflammation due to prenatal infection is associated with schizophrenia. These increased proinflamatory cytokines can damage the brains of the fetuses, which can cause schizophrenic-like symptoms in rats. The present study used Lipopolysaccharides to activate the cytokine-mediated inflammatory response injected into pregnant dams. A T-maze was used to measure short-term memory in rats. The goal of the present study was to test if rats with LPS-treated mothers had cognitive deficits mimicking schizophrenic-like symptoms, and if so, if nicotine could improve those cognitive deficits. The present study consisted of spontaneous alternation, alternation training, delayed alternation training, and nicotine treatment. The hypothesis could not be adequately tested in the present study because there was a small sample size of LPS-treated animals as a result of high rate of pregnancy loss. The LPS-treated animals did spontaneously alternate, but did not learn the other instrumental tasks and could therefore not be tested for short-term memory deficits. Short-term memory was utilized in the healthy control pups. The latencies across the alternation training days decreased across healthy control rats, they were successfully alternating, and performed above chance, indicating use of their short-term memory. On most tasks females performed significantly better than males did. Nicotine did not significantly improve performance, but it continued to stay above chance.