Article

Interstimulus interval (ISI) discrimination of the conditioned eyeblink response in a rodent model of autism

Department of Psychology, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716, USA.
Behavioural brain research (Impact Factor: 3.39). 11/2008; 196(2):297-303. DOI: 10.1016/j.bbr.2008.09.020
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Rats exposed to valproic acid (VPA) on gestational day 12 (GD12) have been advanced as a rodent model of autism [Arndt TL, Stodgell, Rodier PM. The teratology of autism. Int J Dev Neurosci 2005;23: 189-99.]. These rats show cerebellar anomalies and alterations in eyeblink conditioning that are associated with autism. Autistic humans and VPA-exposed rats show normal responses to conditioned and unconditioned stimuli, but they show marked differences from comparison groups in acquisition, magnitude, and timing of the conditioned response (CR). This study examined VPA-induced eyeblink CR timing differences by training rats on an interstimulus interval (ISI) discrimination task, in which two distinct conditioned stimuli (CS; tone and light) are paired with the same unconditioned stimulus (US; periocular shock) at two distinct CS-US intervals. Previous findings suggest that this task would produce abnormally large and prematurely timed CRs for VPA-exposed rats relative to controls. Adult male Long-Evans rats that were exposed to either VPA or saline on GD 12.5 were trained on an ISI discrimination task [Brown KL, Pagani JH, Stanton ME. The ontogeny of interstimulus interval (ISI) discrimination of the conditioned eyeblink response in rats. Behav Neurosci 2006;120: 1057-70.]. In support of earlier findings, we observed early acquisition and enhanced magnitude of the CR in VPA rats compared with controls on long CS trials. VPA rats also showed prematurely timed CRs to long- CS trials, but not to short- CS trials. The ISI discrimination procedure used in the current study reveals differential timed responses in this animal model of autism not previously seen.

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