Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Psychology


Behavioral Neuroscience

Content Description

1 online resource (iv, 118 pages) : illustrations (chiefly color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Christine Wagner

Committee Members

Damian Zuloaga, Andrew Poulos


Progesterone, Serotonin, Neurotransmitters, Prefrontal cortex

Subject Categories

Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


The mesocortical serotonergic pathway, consisting of serotonergic fibers projecting from the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) to the prefrontal cortex (PFC), regulates higher order executive functions and complex cognitive behaviors. Disruptions in this pathway lead to dysfunction in behavior and have been linked to several clinical disorders, including anxiety and ADHD. While this pathway continues to change throughout the lifespan, it is during early development that this pathway undergoes a rapid period of maturation, with the greatest rate of fiber innervation and synaptogenesis occurring in the mesocortical serotonergic pathway at this time. The development of a properly functioning circuit is directed by a variety of complex factors. Steroid hormone receptors are powerful transcription factors expressed in many regions throughout the developing brain and are capable of influencing several neurodevelopmental processes by stimulating or inhibiting gene transcription. More specifically, progesterone receptor (PR) is transiently expressed throughout the developing brains, in regions that are important for regulating cognitive behaviors, including the DRN and PFC. In this thesis, I describe the effects of PR inhibition on the development of the mesocortical serotonergic circuit. In addition, I examine the effects of exposure to a clinically relevant synthetic progestin on the development of the mesocortical circuit, the number of synapses in the PFC, and the display of PFC-mediated behaviors.