Vibrissal paralysis produces increased corticosterone levels and impairment of spatial memory retrieval

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Abstract

This research was aimed at establishing how the absence of active whisking in rats affects acquisition and recovery of spatial memory. The mystacial vibrissae were irreversibly paralyzed by cutting the facial nerve’s mandibular and buccal branches bilaterally in the facial nerve lesion group (N = 14); control animals were submitted to sham-surgery (N = 15). Sham-operated (N = 11) and facial nerve-lesioned (N = 10) animals were trained (one session, eight acquisition trials) and tested 24 h later in a circular Barnes maze. It was found that facial nerve lesioned-animals adequately acquired the spatial task, but had impaired recovery of it when tested 24 h after training as compared to control ones. Plasma corticosterone levels were measured after memory testing in four randomly chosen animals of each trained group and after a single training trial in the maze in additional facial nerve-lesioned (N = 4) and sham-operated animals (N = 4). Significant differences respecting the elevation of corticosterone concentration after either a single training trial or memory testing indicated that stress response was enhanced in facial nerve-lesioned animals as compared to control ones. Increased corticosterone levels during training and testing might have elicited the observed whisker paralysis-induced spatial memory retrieval impairment.

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