Abstract SNACC-36

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Evaluation of social behavior in rats after traumatic brain injury using the complex diving-for-food situation paradigm

1Kuts R, 1Grinshpun Y, 1Zvenigorodsky V, 2Gruenbaum B, 2Gruenbaum S, 1Zlotnik A
1Soroka Medical Center, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, , Israel; 2Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA

Introduction: Survivors of TBI frequently suffer from chronic post-TBI symptoms, including sensory and motor deficits, cognitive impairments, and neuropsychiatric symptoms. All these complications result in disturbances in social behavior and impair quality of life. Appropriate management of these sequela is necessary to optimize recovery, improve quality of life, and return to work faster. Animal models of TBI are useful in identifying the biological mechanisms underlying TBI symptoms and the development of therapeutic interventions. The purpose of this study was to examine the social behavioral patterns of TBI using a complex diving-for-food paradigm in a rat model of TBI. We assessed whether a rat would navigate through an obstacle to obtain food and return it to the remaining rats, or swim to the separate cage to eat alone.
Materials and methods: 50 Sprague Dawley rats (weight 200–220 g) were randomly assigned to one of two groups. The first group was subjected to TBI and the second group was a sham group. To induce TBI a free weight drop model was utilized, which is known to cause diffuse brain injury. 1h after injury the TBI group underwent neurological assessment using a neurological severity score (NSS), and rats were divided into 2 subgroups according the NNS results (maximal score of 25 points represents severe neurological dysfunction while a score of 0 indicates an intact neurological condition). Mild TBI was defined as a NSS of 7-15, and moderate TBI was defined as NSS > 15. 4 weeks after TBI all rats were subjected to the complex diving-for-food test. The behaviors of the animals were videotaped and analyzed by independent researchers who were blinded to the study groups. The following activities were evaluated: frequency of entry into the tunnel, food obtained by carrying, food obtained by attack, time spent in a separate cage, frequency to try diving, and diving.
Results: Rats in the moderate TBI group (n=15) showed significantly lower activity in 5 of 6 activities that were examined compared to the control group (n=15) (P<0.01). Rats in the mild TBI group (n=15) did not demonstrate different activity compared to the control group in all 6 parameters evaluated.
Conclusion: The simulation of TBI-related behavioral disturbances in pre-clinical rodent models is a necessary for better understanding basic molecular and structural relationships, and for the development of therapeutic approaches. Social behavior impairments have received less attention in animal models of TBI and are recognized as a challenge. In this study, using the complex diving-for-food test, we examined for the first time social behavior disturbances in a rat model of TBI. This test demonstrated a significant sensitivity for the disturbances in social activity in the moderate TBI group, but not in the mild TBI group. However, the test was conducted a long time after injury (4 weeks), and was still sensitive for changes in social behavior.

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