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Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 237–250

First Online: 16 July 2009Received: 02 March 2009Accepted: 30 June 2009


Developmental malformations of neocortex—including microgyria, ectopias, and periventricular nodular heterotopia PNH—have been associated with language learning impairments in humans. Studies also show that developmental language impairments are frequently associated with deficits in processing rapid acoustic stimuli, and rodent models have linked cortical developmental disruption microgyria, ectopia with rapid auditory processing deficits. We sought to extend this neurodevelopmental model to evaluate the effects of embryonic E day 15 exposure to the anti-mitotic teratogen methylazoxymethanol acetate MAM on auditory processing and maze learning in rats. Extensive cortical anomalies were confirmed in MAM-treated rats post mortem. These included evidence of laminar disruption, PNH, and hippocampal dysplasia. Juvenile auditory testing P21–42 revealed comparable silent gap detection performance for MAM-treated and control subjects, indicating normal hearing and basic auditory temporal processing in MAM subjects. Juvenile testing on a more complex two-tone oddball task, however, revealed a significant impairment in MAM-treated as compared to control subjects. Post hoc analysis also revealed a significant effect of PNH severity for MAM subjects, with more severe disruption associated with greater processing impairments. In adulthood P60–100, only MAM subjects with the most severe PNH condition showed deficits in oddball two-tone processing as compared to controls. However, when presented with a more complex and novel FM sweep detection task, all MAM subjects showed significant processing deficits as compared to controls. Moreover, post hoc analysis revealed a significant effect of PNH severity on FM sweep processing. Water Maze testing results also showed a significant impairment for spatial but not non-spatial learning in MAM rats as compared to controls. Results lend further support to the notions that: 1 generalized cortical developmental disruption stemming from injury, genetic or teratogenic insults leads to auditory processing deficits, which in turn have been suggested to play a causal role in language impairment; 2 severity of cortical disruption is related to the severity of processing impairments; 3 juvenile auditory processing deficits appear to ameliorate with maturation, but can still be elicited in adulthood using increasingly complex acoustic stimuli; and 4 malformations induced with MAM are also associated with generalized spatial learning deficits. These cumulative findings contribute to our understanding of the behavioral consequences of cortical developmental pathology, which may in turn elucidate mechanisms contributing to developmental language learning impairment in humans.

KeywordsAuditory processing Neuronal migration Startle response Methylazoxymethanol induced heterotopia Hippocampal dysplasia Spatial learning Non-spatial learning  Download fulltext PDF

Autor: Steven W. Threlkeld - Courtney A. Hill - Caitlin E. Cleary - Dongnhu T. Truong - Glenn D. Rosen - R. Holly Fitch


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