Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)


Biomedical Sciences

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Siva Digavalli

Committee Members

Brooks Pond, David Roane, Gregory Ordway, Russell Brown


Schizophrenia is a troubling and severe mental illness that is only incompletely treated by currently available drugs. New drug development is hindered by a scarcity of functionally relevant pharmacodynamic biomarkers that are translatable across preclinical and human subjects. Although psychosis is a major feature of schizophrenia, cognitive and negative symptoms determine the long-term functional outcomes for patients. Stimulus-evoked neural synchrony at gamma (~ 40 Hz) frequency plays an important role in the processing and integration of sensory information. Not surprisingly, schizophrenia patients show deficits in gamma oscillations. NMDA receptor (NMDAR) activation on fast-spiking parvalbumin-positive interneurons is deemed important for the generation of gamma oscillations. NMDA hypofunction has been proposed as an alternative hypothesis to the well-known dopamine dysregulation to explain the neurochemical abnormalities associated with schizophrenia. For this dissertation, we validated a preclinical model to pharmacologically probe NMDA-mediated gamma oscillations by further characterizing the auditory-steady state response (ASSR) in female Sprague Dawley rats. The ASSR is a measure of cortical neural synchrony evoked in response to periodic auditory stimuli. ASSR at 40 Hz is consistently disrupted in patients. First, we established the reliability of click train-evoked 40 Hz ASSR and tone-evoked gamma oscillations in 6 separate sessions, spread over a 3-week period. Then we established the sensitivity of these neural synchrony measures to acute NMDAR blockade using the high affinity NMDA channel blocker MK-801, using a repeated measures design. Next, we compared the reliability and sensitivity of the 40 Hz ASSR from two distinct recording sites. Results from this study showed that as compared to vertex, temporal recording showed a greater gamma synchrony. However, the temporal recording had poor test-retest reliability and lower sensitivity to MK-801-induced disruption. Lastly, we characterized the dose-response profiles of an NMDA co-agonist D-serine, an atypical (clozapine) and a typical (haloperidol) antipsychotic, on the 40 Hz ASSR. Results from these studies showed that only clozapine was effective in robustly augmenting 40 Hz ASSR. Furthermore, only clozapine pretreatment had partial protective effect against MK-801 induced ASSR disruption. Overall, this work establishes that vertex recorded 40 Hz ASSR is a reliable neural synchrony biomarker in female SD rats that is amenable for bidirectional pharmacodynamic modulation.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.