Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name



Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research


Heath, Daniel D


Biological sciences, Health and environmental sciences, Chinook, Neuroplasticity, Salt water, Sequencing, Transcriptome




As organisms encounter different environments, their ability to process new and changing information directly impacts survival. In vertebrates, this ability often occurs through the development of cognitive processes, which is facilitated by neuroplasticity. Chinook salmon ( Oncorhynchus tshawytscha ) smolts experience a large environmental change as they migrate from their freshwater natal streams into the ocean, and must be able to learn, react to, and remember new stimuli. I used RNA sequencing techniques to investigate transcription differences between brains of Chinook salmon who had been exposed to salt water for 24h and a freshwater control group. I also investigated differences in the response to salt water among populations, and between smolt stage, and pre-smolt stage Chinook. The transcriptional differences I found indicate neuroplastic potential is higher in wild fish, younger fish, and increases in response to salt water. These findings increase our insight into potential genetic mechanisms behind neuroplasticity.