Neural Plasticity and Sensorimotor Gating in Rats

  • Hammer, Ronald P (PI)

Project: Research project

Grant Details


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Symptoms of schizophrenia include various cognitive deficits that are the result of sensorimotor gating deficiency, such as sensory overload, disorganization and thought fragmentation. Sensorimotor gating can be measured using a quantitative test that assesses reduction of the startle response to an acoustic pulse stimulus after presentation of a weaker prepulse stimulus, termed prepulse inhibition (PPI). Normal PPI is disrupted in patients with schizophrenia. An identical test can been used in rats to elucidate the mechanisms underlying PPI disruption, which is produced by dopaminergic abnormalities within the nucleus accumbens. The long-range objective of the project is to determine specific cellular and molecular substrates of PPI regulation and to investigate novel therapies for sensorimotor gating deficits in schizophrenia. An experimental animal model has been used to determine the pharmacology and neural circuitry underlying PPI disruption. This model can predict the efficacy of drugs used to treat schizophrenia. We discovered that repeated treatment with a selective dopamine D2-like receptor agonist reverses PPI disruption in rats, and we described a putative intracellular basis for this PPI recovery. In fact, repeated treatment results in compensatory changes that resemble those produced by atypical antipsychotic drugs. Moreover, this effect occurs selectively in the mesolimbic dopamine system without affecting extrapyramidal brain regions. The proposed efforts will extend our studies of neural substrates underlying PPI regulation by examining the association of molecular changes to the timing of PPI recovery, which will be further characterized using an assay for conditioned avoidance responding. We will also examine the duration of PPI recovery and the effect on phencyclidine-induced PPI disruption. We will investigate the involvement of D2-, D3- and adenosine A2A receptors using selective antagonists, as well as the causative relationship between intracellular cAMP signaling and PPI recovery, using cAMP response element binding protein assays and adeno-associated viral-mediated blockade of cAMP response element binding. Finally, specific target(s) for therapeutic intervention will be identified in characterized neurons of the nucleus accumbens. Together, these studies will elucidate the mechanisms of neural plasticity underlying PPI recovery in rodents, and will provide novel therapeutic targets for schizophrenia.
Effective start/end date7/1/065/31/12


  • National Institutes of Health: $272,281.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $249,256.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $249,256.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $249,256.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $249,256.00


  • Medicine(all)


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