Date of Graduation

Spring 2019


Master of Science in Cell and Molecular Biology


Biomedical Sciences

Committee Chair

Lyon Hough


While Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is defined by deficits in social communication, compromised motor function and motor learning have been increasingly reported. Motor deficits could compound social impairment through delayed language acquisition, reduced opportunity for social interaction, and affected nonverbal communication. One area of interest in the investigation of motor dysfunction is the cerebellum, where altered cerebellar structure and connectivity have been reported in those diagnosed with ASD. Morphological and functional changes in cerebellar circuitry could disrupt motor skill development and may be associated with developmental alterations of the serotonergic system. Elevated blood serotonin in perinatal development, developmental hyperserotonemia (DHS), is the most consistent neurochemical finding reported in ASD and has been implicated in the pathogenesis of the disorder. The present investigation examined the link between DHS, cerebellar development, motor function, and motor learning in Sprague Dawley rats. Motor learning of DHS animals was assessed through repetitive balance beam motor training and testing, the extent of improvement throughout trials being reflective of motor learning and potential motor skill rescue. Investigation of cerebellar circuitry was performed with immunohistochemical labeling of cerebellar Purkinje cells (PCs) with anti-calbindin and olivary climbing fibers with anti-vesicular glutamate transporter 2 (VGlut2), then assessed using confocal microscopy and ImageJ particle analysis.


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), developmental hyperserotonemia (DHS), motor control, motor learning, cerebellum, Purkinje cells (PCs), olivary climbing fibers

Subject Categories

Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Medical Neurobiology | Nervous System Diseases


© Elizabeth Diane Holland

Open Access