Chronic mild stress impairs latent inhibition and induces region-specific neural activation in CHL1-deficient mice, a mouse model of schizophrenia

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Schizophrenia is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by abnormal processing of information and attentional deficits. Schizophrenia has a high genetic component but is precipitated by environmental factors, as proposed by the ‘two-hit’ theory of schizophrenia. Here we compared latent inhibition as a measure of learning and attention, in CHL1-deficient mice, an animal model of schizophrenia, and their wild-type littermates, under no-stress and chronic mild stress conditions. All unstressed mice as well as the stressed wild-type mice showed latent inhibition. In contrast, CHL1-deficient mice did not show latent inhibition after exposure to chronic stress. Differences in neuronal activation (c-Fos-positive cell counts) were noted in brain regions associated with latent inhibition: Neuronal activation in the prelimbic/infralimbic cortices and the nucleus accumbens shell was affected solely by stress. Neuronal activation in basolateral amygdala and ventral hippocampus was affected independently by stress and genotype. Most importantly, neural activation in nucleus accumbens core was affected by the interaction between stress and genotype. These results provide strong support for a ‘two-hit’ (genes x environment) effect on latent inhibition in CHL1-deficient mice, and identify CHL1-deficient mice as a model of schizophrenia-like learning and attention impairments.

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