Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Cliff Summers, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Kenneth Renner, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Patrick Ronan, Ph.D.


Stress, Aggression, Social Interaction, Behavior, Phenotype

Subject Categories

Animal Studies


Stress is a universal reaction. Short-term stress can be viewed as positive, as it can promote survival and encourage positive behaviors; whereas chronic stress that is unpredictable can lead to health defects and emotional pathologies. The Stress Alternatives Model (SAM) was created with the purpose of testing decision-making during socially stressful situations. Over the course of a four-day experiment, test mice are exposed to periods of social stress caused by bites inflicted onto them by a larger aggressive mouse. As a response to these attacks, test mice exhibit an array of behaviors and ultimately develop one of two adaptive phenotypes: Stay or Escape. The adoption of phenotypes results from the test mice having the opportunity to utilize escape holes contained in the SAM apparatus at any point during the experiment. Higher intensity levels of aggression lead to the development of the Stay phenotype. Mice who develop the Escape phenotype demonstrate defensive avoidance behavior, whereas mice who develop the Stay phenotype demonstrate fear-adaptive behavior.



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