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Neuroscience. 2006 Sep 1;141(3):1113-21. Epub 2006 Jun 5.

Medial prefrontal cortex volume loss in rats with isolation rearing-induced deficits in prepulse inhibition of acoustic startle.

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Department of Pharmacology, Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3QT, UK.


Rearing rats in isolation produces perturbations in behavior and brain neurochemistry suggested to resemble those of schizophrenia. In particular, isolation-reared rats display deficits in prepulse inhibition of acoustic startle that in humans are associated with disorders including schizophrenia and are interpreted as abnormalities in sensorimotor gating. The prefrontal cortex is considered important in the regulation of prepulse inhibition of acoustic startle and postmortem studies suggest that neuropil and total volume, but not total number of neurons, are decreased in this region of the brains of schizophrenic patients. In this study we used design-based stereological techniques to examine the brains of Lister Hooded rats, reared in isolation and which displayed prepulse inhibition of acoustic startle deficits, for changes in morphology compared with the brains of their socially-reared littermates. Pooled data from three batches of animals revealed a significant 7% volume loss of the medial prefrontal cortex of isolation-reared rats whereas neuron number in this region was unchanged. In contrast, volume and total neuron number were unaffected in the rostral caudate putamen. The robust reduction in prefrontal cortical volume observed in isolation-reared rats, in the absence of reductions in total neuron number, suggest that there is a loss of volume of the neuropil. These changes parallel those reported in schizophrenia patients and therefore support the construct validity of this model.

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