Date of Award

Summer 7-27-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Integrative Biology (MSIB)



Committee Chair/First Advisor

Scott Nowak Ph. D

Major Professor

Lisa Ganser Ph. D

Second Committee Member

Joseph Dirnberger Ph. D


Marijuana is one of the most commonly used illicit drugs around the world. It has gained attention as an alternative medicine to many different disorders. Though initially investigated in modern medicine for its analgesic and antiemetic properties, cannabis has been recently found to benefit numerous neurological disorders. Though there are over 100 different cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant, Δ9 – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has been shown to the most efficacious phytocannabinoid in neurological disorders. THC has been shown in numerous previous studies to be effective at treating spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury, as well as seizures. Through binding of the endogenous cannabinoid receptor system THC is able to affect both the excitatory and inhibitory synapses. Hyperekplexia is an upper motor neuron disease characterized by hypertonia and exaggerated startle response. In Hyperekplexia, there is a decrease in inhibitory synapse caused by a loss of glycine receptors. Because previous studies have demonstrated the efficacy of THC in disorders similar to hyperekplexia, it should be investigated as a treatment for this disorder as well. This study demonstrates that in embryonic zebrafish, THC does not detrimentally affect the development of the synapses needed to complete the startle response. Additionally, this study supports the use of THC as a treatment option for the alleviation of spasticity caused by hyperekplexia.