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Shock. 2019 Jul 26. doi: 10.1097/SHK.0000000000001424. [Epub ahead of print]

Conditioned Contextual Freezing is A Neurobehavioral Biomarker of Axonal Injury Indicated by Reduced Fractional Anisotropy In A Mouse Model of Blast-Induced Mild Traumatic Brain Injury.

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Department Physiology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL.
Center for Basic MR Research NorthShore University Health System, Evanston, IL.
L3 Applied Technologies, San Diego, CA.
Cortrop Incorporated, Encinitas, CA.
Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, La Jolla, CA.


Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is an important public health problem generated by closed head injury. This study is focused on the impact of blast-induced mild TBI on auditory trace and delay fear conditioning, models of declarative and non-declarative memory, respectively, and the correlation of conditioned freezing and fractional anisotropy, a measure of axonal state. A supersonic helium pressure wave was generated by a shock tube to blast 8 week old male mice on Day 1 for 1.4 msec with an incident pressure of 16 psi, corresponding to a reflected pressure of 56.9 psi at the mouse head. On Day 3, the mice were subjected to auditory trace- or delay- fear conditioning. On Day 4, contextual freezing in the trained context, and pre-cue and cued freezing in a novel context were determined. After cardiac perfusion on Day 5, ex vivo images were obtained with diffusion tensor imaging at 14.1 Tesla. We observed that delay fear conditioning prevented or reversed the decrease in fractional anisotropy in both the medial and lateral corpus callosum suggesting axonal stabilization of potentially behavioral therapeutic significance. Moderately strong and statistically significant Pearson correlations were found between fractional anisotropy and contextual freezing in the medial and lateral corpus callosum of blasted and sham-blasted delay- or trace- fear conditioned mice. Thus, contextual freezing is a neurobehavioral biomarker for axonal injury in mild TBI and is a reliable and high-throughput behavioral assay for the evaluation of potential therapeutics to treat mild TBI.

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