Acute perinatal asphyxia impairs non-spatial memory and alters motor coordination in adult male rats
Perinatal asphyxia can cause neuronal loss and depletion of neurotransmitters within the striatum. The striatum plays an important role in motor control, sensorimotor integration and learning. In the present study we investigated whether perinatal asphyxia leads to motor deficits related to striatal damage, and in particular to the loss of GABAergic neurons. Perinatal asphyxia was induced in time-pregnant Wistar rats on the day of delivery by placing the uterus horns, containing the pups, in a 37 degrees C water bath for 20 min. Three motor performance tasks (open field, grip test and walking pattern) were performed at 3 and 6 weeks of age. Antibodies against calbindin and parvalbumin were used to stain GABAergic striatal projection neurons and interneurons, respectively. The motor tests revealed subtle effects of perinatal asphyxia, i.e. small decrease in motor activity. Analysis of the walking pattern revealed an increase in stride width at 6 weeks of age after perinatal asphyxia. Furthermore, a substantial loss of calbindin-immunoreactive (-22%) and parvalbumin-immunoreactive (-43%) cells was found in the striatum following perinatal asphyxia at two months of age. GABA(A) receptor autoradiography revealed no changes in GABA binding activity within the striatum, globus pallidus or substantia nigra. We conclude that perinatal asphyxia resulted in a loss of GABAergic projection neurons and interneurons in the striatum without alteration of GABA(A) receptor affinity. Despite a considerable loss of striatal neurons, only minor deficits in motor performance were found after perinatal asphyxia.