Specificity of cognitive impairment from Pfiesteria piscicida exposure in rats: attention and visual function versus behavioral plasticity.
Pfiesteria piscicida is a toxic dinoflagellate that has caused massive fish kills in estuaries along the East Coast of the United States, and exposure of humans to toxic Pfiesteria has been associated with cognitive impairment. A visual signal detection task was used to determine the possible importance of attentional and visual processes in Pfiesteria effects on cognitive function. Adult female rats were trained to perform the signal detection task. After training, the rats were injected subcutaneously with fish culture water containing toxic Pfiesteria (35,600 or 106,800 cells of Pfiesteria/kg of rat body weight) or with (control) fish culture water containing no Pfiesteria. Effects of toxic Pfiesteria on maintenance of signal detection behavior were assessed for 2 weeks after treatment. Then, the signal-response contingencies were reversed. After the discrimination was reestablished on the reversed levers, the rats received a second dose of toxic Pfiesteria. The rats were again tested for 2 weeks, after which a second reversal was imposed. Pfiesteria did not affect behavior in the signal detection task during 2 weeks of prereversal testing after either exposure. However, a significant Pfiesteria-induced deficit emerged when the signal-response contingencies were reversed. These findings suggest that Pfiesteria-induced deficits emerge during periods of behavioral transition and not during performance of previously learned tasks.
Rezvani, AH; Bushnell, PJ; Burkholder, JM; Glasgow, HB; Levin, ED
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