Previous research has shown that music exposure can lead to a decrease of anxiety levels in chronically stress subjects. This could be because music exposure can influence a stable negative feedback loop associated with the HPA axis, leading to a decrease in glucocorticoid release. This decrease in glucocorticoid release can influence an increase of BDNF in the hippocampus of rats, leading to the strengthening of neurons known to combat disorders correlated to the neuronal atrophy caused by chronic stress. As a behavioral correlate of hippocampal BDNF concentrations, behavioral anxiety was measured through the open field and elevated plus-maze. To study the effects of music as an anxiolytic for chronic stress, Sprague Dawley (SD) rats were exposed to one of four conditions for 2 weeks: maternal deprivation, Mozart Sonata in D Major K.448, a combination of both, or control. Treatment was immediately followed by an assessment of activity and anxiety levels using the open field test and the elevated-plus maze with the hypotheses that maternal deprivation would cause higher levels of anxiety, and that subjects exposed to music would have a diminished level of behavioral anxiety. Results of the current study showed no significant difference in anxiety levels between each group. There was, however, a significant difference between the activity of maternally deprived and non-maternally deprived rats in the open field, but not in the elevated plus-maze. This study illustrated that exposure to maternal deprivation and/or music for two weeks had no effect on subject’s behavioral anxiety levels. Even though we obtained a significant main effect for the activity of the maternally deprived subjects in the open field test, these results were inconclusive due to the fact that one behavioral task assessed these unexpected results and the other did not.


Stavnezer, Amy Jo




Behavioral Neurobiology | Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Cognitive Neuroscience | Mental Disorders


Affective Disorder, BDNF, Hippocampus, Anxiety, Sprague Dawley Rat, Music, Mozart Effect

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2018 Elise K. Black