Date of Completion


Thesis Type

College of Arts and Science Honors


Psychological Science

First Advisor

Sayamwong Hammack

Second Advisor

Mahafuza Aktar


Pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide, Bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, Substantia nigra, Paraventricular nucleus, Chronic variant stress, Sex differences.


Stress-related disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) weigh heavily on the healthcare system in the United States (DuPont et al. 1996). Pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating peptide (PACAP) system dysregulation has been implicated with stress disorders such as anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This project seeks to add to existing research on the PACAP- PAC1 system’s correlation with a maladaptive response to chronic variant stress (CVS) exposure, and a possible sex difference in these outcomes. The experiment involved a two-group design with female PAC1-Ires-Cre mice comparing anxiety-like behavior from CVS exposure. We hypothesized that after exposure to chronic stress, there would be an observable difference in the distribution and projection of PAC1 expressing neurons in the BNST of female PAC1 Cre mice as well as increased anxiety-like behavior. Results indicated no significant difference in anxiety-like behavior, and an increase in projection fibers in the substantia nigra, lateral hypothalamus, paraventricular cortex, and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. Further research to investigate the role of estrogens in relation to these findings should be explored.