Honors Program Theses


Open Access Honors Program Thesis

First Advisor

Darrell Wiens, Honors Thesis Advisor


Autism spectrum disorders; Neural tube--Abnormalities; Folic acid--Physiological effects; Glutamic acid--Physiological effects; Methyl aspartate;


During the first month of a human pregnancy folic acid (FA) is vital to the closing of the neural tube. However, overconsumption of FA has been linked to the rise of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), although this linkage is still under debate and testing. It has been hypothesized that the glutamate (GA) portion of FA may compete for binding to the N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDA-R) with the neurotransmitter glutamate, causing inhibited growth cone activity. In order to test this hypothesis, we cultured eight-day chick dorsal root ganglia (DRGs) and assessed parameters of neural development in the presence of FA, GA, or both and compared these to controls. We found that neurite number was initially inhibited by both FA and GA, though the GA was no longer inhibitory in the more advanced DRGs. Furthermore, when the two were combined the GA partly overcame the FA’s inhibition. We found no consistent effects on neurite length, or on dynamic activity of neurites and growth cones. We found that both agents inhibited synaptogenesis. Additionally, we found that synaptogenic area was increased as the DRGs advanced.

Year of Submission



Department of Biology

University Honors Designation

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors

Date Original


Object Description

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