Lyall AE, Swanson J, Liu C, Blumenthal TD, Turner CP
Exp Brain Res 2009 Aug;197(3):215-22
The acoustic startle reflex in rats can be inhibited if a prepulse stimulus is presented just before the startle stimulus (prepulse inhibition; PPI). When postnatal day 7 (P7) rats are exposed to agents that block the NMDA receptor (NMDAR), robust apoptosis is observed within hours and is thought to be followed at later ages by a significant loss of PPI. To understand these observations further, we exposed rat pups to vehicle or the NMDAR antagonist MK801 (1 mg/kg) at P6, P8, and P10. We then examined animals for PPI at P28 and P56. Compared to vehicle controls, we found no evidence for PPI deficits in the MK801-treated group, although we did observe prepulse-induced delay in response time at P56 (but not at P28). In a parallel study, we also performed histological analysis of brain sections for evidence of the pro-apoptotic marker activated caspase-3, 8 h after vehicle or MK801 injection into P6 animals. We found that there was a robust increase in this marker of cell death in the inferior colliculus of MK801 compared to vehicle-treated animals. Thus, transient blockade of the NMDAR during the postnatal period not only promotes early apoptosis in a brain region critical for acoustic processing but also leads to auditory deficits at a later age, suggesting that injury-induced loss of collicular neurons leads to network reorganization in the auditory system that is progressive in nature.