Date of Award

Fall 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Teresa Murray


The prevention of social anxiety, performance anxiety, and social phobia via the combination of two generic drugs, diphenoxylate HC1 (opioid) plus atropine sulfate (anticholinergic) and propranolol HCl (beta blocker) was evaluated in mice through behavioral studies. A patent published on a September 8, 2011 by Benjamin D. Holly, US 2011/0218215 Al, prompted the research. The drug combination of diphenoxylate and atropine plus propranolol could be an immediate treatment for patients suffering from acute phobic and social anxiety disorders. Demonstrating the anxiolytic effects of the treatment on mice would validate a mouse model for neuroscientist to be used to detect the mechanism of action behind the drug combination.

To detect more sensitive anxiety measures in mice, a MATLAB-based software called MATSAP was developed as a quick, consistent, and open source program that provides objective automated analysis of stretch-attend posture in rodent behavioral experiments. Stretch-attend posture occurs during risk assessment and is prevalent in common rodent behavioral tests. Stretch-attend posture is a more sensitive measure of the effects of anxiolytics than traditional spatiotemporal indices. However, quantifying stretch-attend posture using human observers is time consuming, somewhat subjective, and prone to errors. Unlike human observers, MATSAP is not susceptible to fatigue or subjectivity. MATSAP performance was assessed with videos of male Swiss mice moving in an open field box and in an elevated plus maze. MATSAP reliably detected stretch-attend posture on par with human observers. This freely-available program can be broadly used by biologists and psychologists to accelerate neurological, pharmacological, and behavioral studies.

To further expand on methods to automate the detection of SAP, EthoStock was developed. This not only can detect SAP, but has the potential to detect other ethological behaviors such as grooming and rearing.