Characterizing the behavioral effects of nerve agent-induced seizure activity in rats: Increased startle reactivity and perseverative behavior
The development and deployment of next-generation therapeutics to protect military and civilian personnel against chemical warfare nerve agent threats require the establishment and validation of animal models. The purpose of the present investigation was to characterize the behavioral consequences of soman (GD)-induced seizure activity using a series of behavioral assessments. Male Sprague-Dawley rats (n=24), implanted with a transmitter for telemetric recording of encephalographic signals, were administered either saline or 1.0 LD₅₀ GD (110 μg/kg, sc) followed by treatment with a combination of atropine sulfate (2 mg/kg, im) and the oxime HI-6 (93.6 mg/kg, im) at 1 min post-exposure. Seizure activity was allowed to continue for 30 min before administration of the anticonvulsant diazepam (10 mg/kg, sc). The animals that received GD and experienced seizure activity had elevated startle responses to both 100- and 120-dB startle stimuli compared to control animals. The GD-exposed animals that had seizure activity also exhibited diminished prepulse inhibition in response to 120-dB startle stimuli, indicating altered sensorimotor gating. The animals were subsequently evaluated for the acquisition of lever pressing using an autoshaping procedure. Animals that experienced seizure activity engaged in more goal-directed (i.e., head entries into the food trough) behavior than did control animals. There were, however, no differences between groups in the number of lever presses made during 15 sessions of autoshaping. Finally, the animals were evaluated for the development of fixed-ratio (FR) schedule performance. Animals that experienced GD-induced seizure activity engaged in perseverative food trough-directed behaviors. There were few differences between groups on other measures of FR schedule-controlled behavior. It is concluded that the GD-induced seizure activity increased startle reactivity and engendered perseverative responding and that these measures are useful for assessing the long-term effects of GD exposure in rats.
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