Senior Honors Projects, 2020-current

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation



http: //



Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)


Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders


Lincoln C. Gray

Emily R. Zane

John T. McNaught


Microglial cells “play a pivotal role in refining neural networks during early critical periods” (Gabriele & Gray, 2020, p. 1). A disturbance in the functioning of these microglial cells contribute to specific characteristics of some neurodevelopmental disorders- including autism spectrum disorder. In this study, we used a mouse model to study disruptions in cell activity, as understanding the biological and genetic background of autism spectrum disorder could help us provide better treatment and therapy options to those diagnosed.

The mutated mice in this experiment have microglial cells with “compromised fractalkine signaling” (Gabriele & Gray, 2020, p. 4-5). We studied multimodal psychophysics in heterozygous, homozygous, and wild-type mice in order to further investigate the link between genetics and autism. Auditory, somatosensory, and multimodal stimuli were presented to the mice and we measured the startle response with an accelerometer. The goal was to measure if the mice expect the startle-eliciting-stimulus when given a pre-pulse “warning.” This is known as pre-pulse inhibition (PPI). We were looking to find a lack of behavioral response in the mutant mice- since that characteristic is descriptive of autism- and a significant response from the wild-type mice (Gabriele et al., 2021). This would confirm a connection to autism.

With this research, we are able to gain a deeper understanding of neurodevelopmental disorders. This data has the potential to influence the identification timeline, school accommodations, and future research into the early critical period and autism spectrum disorder.



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