Increased affective ultrasonic communication during fear learning in adult male rats exposed to maternal immune activation.
ABSTRACT Maternal exposure to infection during pregnancy greatly increases the risk of psychopathology in the offspring. In support of clinical findings, rodent models of maternal immune activation (MIA) show that prenatal exposure to pathogens can induce phenotypic changes in the offspring associated with schizophrenia, autism, depression and anxiety. In the current study, we investigated the effects of MIA via polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid (poly I:C) on emotional behavior and communication in rats. Pregnant rats were administered poly I:C or saline on gestation day 15 and male offspring were tested in an auditory fear conditioning paradigm in early adulthood. We found that prenatal poly I:C exposure significantly altered affective signaling, namely, the production of aversive 22-kHz ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs), in terms of call number, structure and temporal patterning. MIA led to an increase in aversive 22-kHz USVs to 300% of saline controls. Offspring exposed to MIA not only emitted more 22-kHz USVs, but also emitted calls that were shorter in duration and occurred in bouts containing more calls. The production of appetitive 50-kHz USVs and audible calls was not affected. Intriguingly, alterations in aversive 22-kHz USV emission were observed despite no obvious changes in overt defensive behavior, which highlights the importance of assessing USVs as an additional measure of fear. Aversive 22-kHz USVs are a prominent part of the rat's defensive behavioral repertoire and serve important communicative functions, most notably as alarm calls. The observed changes in aversive 22-kHz USVs show that MIA has long-term effects on emotional behavior and communication in exposed rat offspring.
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ABSTRACT: Many lines of evidence suggest that schizophrenia has a major developmental component and that environmental factors that disrupt key stages of development, such as maternal stress during pregnancy as a result of infection or malnutrition, can increase the risk of developing schizophrenia in later life. This review examines how non-clinical neurodevelopmental models pertinent to schizophrenia have been evaluated for their ability to reproduce behavioural deficits related to the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. The more frequently used are the prenatal application of the mitotoxic agent methylazoxymethanol, prenatal immune challenge and the neonatal ventral hippocampus lesion model. In general they have been extensively evaluated in models considered relevant to positive symptoms of schizophrenia. In contrast, very few studies have examined tests related to negative symptoms and, when they have, it has almost exclusively been a social interaction model. Other aspects related to negative symptoms such as anhedonia, affective flattening and avolition have almost never been studied. Further studies examining other components of negative symptomatology are needed to more clearly associate these deficits with a schizophrenia-like profile as social withdrawal is a hallmark of many disorders. Although there are no truly effective treatments for negative symptoms, better characterisation with a broader range of drugs used in schizophrenia will be necessary to better evaluate the utility of these models. In summary, developmental models of schizophrenia have been extensively studied as models of positive symptoms but, given the unmet need in the clinic, the same effort now needs to be made with regard to negative symptoms.European neuropsychopharmacology: the journal of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology 01/2013; · 3.68 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Maternal immune activation (MIA) during pregnancy is an environmental risk factor for psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia and autism in the offspring. Hence, changes in an array of behaviors, including behavioral flexibility, consistent with altered functioning of cortico-limbic circuits have been reported in rodent models of MIA. Surprisingly, previous studies have not examined the effect of MIA on the extinction of fear conditioning which depends on cortico-limbic circuits. Thus, we tested the effects of treating pregnant Long Evans rats with the viral mimetic polyI:C (gestational day 15; 4 mg/kg; i.v.) on fear conditioning and extinction in the male offspring using two different tasks. In the first experiment, we observed no effect of polyI:C treatment on the acquisition or extinction of a classically conditioned fear memory in a non-discriminative auditory cue paradigm. However, polyI:C-treated offspring did increase contextual freezing during the recall of fear extinction in this non-discriminative paradigm. The second experiment utilized a recently developed task to explicitly test the ability of rats to discriminate among cues signifying fear, reward, and safety; a task that requires behavioral flexibility. To our surprise, polyI:C-treated rats acquired the task in a manner similar to saline-treated rats. However, upon subsequent extinction training, they showed significantly faster extinction of the freezing response to the fear cue. In contrast, during the extinction recall test, polyI:C-treated offspring showed enhanced freezing behavior before and after presentation of the fear cue, suggesting an impairment in their ability to regulate fear behavior. These behavioral results are integrated into the literature suggesting impairments in cortico-limbic brain function in the offspring of rats treated with polyI:C during pregnancy.Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 05/2014; 8:168. · 4.16 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Negative symptoms (e.g., asociality and anhedonia) are a distinct symptomatic domain that has been found to significantly affect the quality of life in patients diagnosed with schizophrenia. Additionally, the primary negative symptom of asociality (i.e., withdrawal from social contact that derives from indifference or lack of desire to have social contact) is a major contributor to poor psychosocial functioning and has been found to play an important role in the course of the disorder. Nonetheless, the pathophysiology underlying these symptoms is unknown and currently available treatment options (e.g., antipsychotics and cognitive-behavioral therapy) fail to reliably produce efficacious benefits. Utilizing rodent paradigms that measure social behaviors (e.g., social withdrawal) to elucidate the neurobiological substrates that underlie social dysfunction and to identify novel therapeutic targets may be highly informative and useful to understand more about the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Accordingly, the purpose of this review is to provide an overview of the behavioral tasks for assessing social functioning that may be translationally relevant for investigating negative symptoms associated with schizophrenia.European neuropsychopharmacology: the journal of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology 01/2013; · 3.68 Impact Factor