Early-life seizures result in deficits in social behavior and learning

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Children with epilepsy show a high co-morbidity with psychiatric disorders and autism. One of the critical determinants of a child's behavioral outcome with autism and cognitive dysfunction is the age of onset of seizures. In order to examine whether seizures during postnatal days 7–11 result in learning and memory deficits and behavioral features of autism we administered the inhalant flurothyl to induce seizures in C57BL/6J mice. Mice received three seizures per day for five days starting on postnatal day 7. Parallel control groups consisted of similarly handled animals that were not exposed to flurothyl and naïve mice. Subjects were then processed through a battery of behavioral tests in adulthood: elevated-plus maze, nose-poke assay, marble burying, social partition, social chamber, fear conditioning, and Morris water maze. Mice with early-life seizures had learning and memory deficits in the training portion of the Morris water maze (p < 0.05) and probe trial (p < 0.01). Mice with seizures showed no differences in marble burying, the nose-poke assay, or elevated plus-maze testing compared to controls. However, they showed a significant difference in the social chamber and social partition tests. Mice with seizures during postnatal days 7–11 showed a significant decrease in social interaction in the social chamber test and had a significant impairment in social behavior in the social partition test. Together, these results indicate that early life seizures result in deficits in hippocampal-dependent memory tasks and produce long-term disruptions in social behavior.

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