Anxiety and risk assessment-related traits in a rat model of Spinocerebellar ataxia type 17

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Anxiety as a common feature of several neurodegenerative/polyglutamine diseases is an important aspect for the face validity of an animal model for Spinocerebellar Ataxia type 17 (SCA17). Risk assessment and anxiety-like traits were characterised in 3–6–9 months old rats of a transgenic model for SCA17 using the standard behavioural test elevated plus maze. In addition, c-Fos immunostainings in the basolateral amygdala evaluated neuronal activation in correlation to the behavioural responses. The most prominent behavioural effect was a higher level of risk assessment in the transgenic rats. In addition, an increase in anxiety-related behaviour in these rats was found. Although the EPM caused no overall effect on c-Fos expression, a negative correlation with the anxiety-like behavioural response was observed. Our results suggest that the SCA17 rat model displays an anxious phenotype already at 3 months of age resembling the generalized anxiety in early symptomatic SCA17 patients, thus confirming the validity of this rat model.

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