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Oxygen Deprivation Produces Autism-Like Changes in Rats

Anoxia degrades auditory cortex in similar way as neurodevelopmental disorders

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Rats briefly deprived of oxygen shortly after birth develop auditory system deficits similar to those seen in autism and other developmental disorders, according to a study published online Dec. 19 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.

Fabrizio Strata, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco, treated rat pups with 12-minute periods of anoxia on the day of birth and the following day using an airtight nitrogen chamber. After 60 days, the rats were assessed for their auditory system-related behavioral and physiological responses.

The oxygen-deprived rats had an increased acoustic threshold, were slower to respond, and adjusted more slowly to changing behavioral conditions compared with control rats, according to the study. Activity in subcortical and cortical brain regions that process auditory information was also degraded.

"Our findings suggest that perinatal anoxia in rats may represent a promising model that could allow us to understand the specific and global executive function deficits observed in children affected by neurodevelopmental disorders," Strata and colleagues conclude.

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