Splitting of the cerebellar vermis in juvenile rats—Effects on social behavior, vocalization and motor activity

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Radical resection of malignant midline tumors of the posterior fossa in childhood followed by adjuvant therapies like chemotherapy or radiotherapy often leads to longterm survival and even healing of such patients. Therefore, quality of life becomes particular important. Postoperative neurological deficits, such as cerebellar mutism and ataxia have been attributed to splitting of the cerebellar vermis to remove these tumors.

Here, we tested the effect of vermian splitting in juvenile rats on social behavior, vocalization and motor activity. Juvenile male Sprague Dawley rats, aged 23 days, underwent vermian splitting under general anesthesia after medial suboccipital craniotomy (lesioned group, n = 16). In sham-lesioned rats, only craniotomy was performed and the dura was opened with release of cerebrospinal fluid (n = 16). Naïve rats served as controls (n = 14). All groups were tested on day 0 (before surgery), and on days 1–4 and 7 after surgery for locomotor activity, motor coordination, social behavior, and ultrasound vocalization during social interaction. Finally, splitting of the vermis was histologically verified.

Social interaction was reduced for two days after surgery in lesioned rats compared to sham-lesioned rats and controls. Vocalization was decreased for one day compared to controls. Locomotor activity was disturbed for several days after surgery in both lesioned and sham-lesioned rats as compared to controls.

Deficient social behavior and vocalization after surgery are related to vermian splitting in juvenile rats. These results indicate that similar to the human context vermian splitting can reduce communicative drive in the early postsurgical phase.

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