Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Psychology


Behavioral Neuroscience

Content Description

1 online resource (vi, 134 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Christine Wagner

Committee Members

Bruce Svare, Bob Rosellini, Ben Szaro


Development, Dopamine, Mesocortical, progesterone, Progesterone, Dopaminergic neurons, Steroid hormones, Developmental neurophysiology

Subject Categories

Neuroscience and Neurobiology


The mesocortical dopaminergic pathway, comprised of projections from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) to the prefrontal cortex (PFC), mediates many of the most complex forms of cognitive behaviors and has been associated with clinical disorders such as ADHD and schizophrenia. While this circuit continues to develop throughout much of the lifespan, there is a rapid period of maturation, early in development, in which this circuit is highly sensitive to disruption. Steroid hormone receptors are powerful transcription factors, capable of affecting a variety of neurodevelopmental processes and are expressed in many regions throughout the developing brain. Specifically, the nuclear progesterone receptor (PR) is expressed transiently in many regions mediating diverse functions from reproductive behaviors to learning and memory, along with other cognitive behaviors. In this thesis, I describe the expression of PR in both the origin and targets of the mesocortical circuit, the phenotype of the cells that express PR within this system, the effects of PR inhibition on the development of mesocortical circuits and the display of PFC-mediated behaviors. In addition, I examine the effects of exogenous administration of a commonly prescribed synthetic progestin on mesocortical functioning.