Awakenings in rats by ultrasounds: A new animal model for paradoxical kinesia

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Paradoxical kinesia refers to a sudden transient ability of akinetic patients to perform motor tasks they are otherwise unable to perform. The mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are unknown due a paucity of valid animal models that faithfully reproduce paradoxical kinesia. Here, in a first experiment, we present a new method to study paradoxical kinesia by “awakening” cataleptic rats through presenting appetitive 50-kHz ultrasonic vocalizations (USV), which are typical for social situations with positive valence, like juvenile play or sexual encounters (“rat laughter”). Rats received systemic haloperidol to induce catalepsy, which was assessed by means of the bar test. During that test, 50-kHz USV, time- and amplitude-matched white noise (NOISE), or background noise (BACKGROUND) were played back and compared to SILENCE. Every animal was exposed to all four acoustic stimuli in random order, with four independent groups of rats being tested. Only when exposed to playback of appetitive 50-kHz USV, the otherwise akinetic rats rapidly started to move efficiently. The acoustic control stimuli, in contrast, did not release rats from catalepsy, despite eliciting the auditory pinna reflex and head movements towards the sound source. Moreover, in a second experiment, playback of aversive 22-kHz USV and relevant acoustic control stimuli did also not significantly affect catalepsy time. Together, our animal model provides a completely new approach to study mechanisms of paradoxical kinesia, which might help to improve behavioral therapies for Parkinson’s disease and other disorders, where akinetic or cataleptic states occur.

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