Dissociation in the Effects of Induced Neonatal Hypoxia-Ischemia on Rapid Auditory Processing and Spatial Working Memory in Male Rats

Amanda L. Smith, Michelle Alexander, James J. Chrobak, Ted S. Rosenkrantz, Holly H. Fitch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Infants born prematurely are at risk for cardiovascular events causing hypoxia-ischemia (HI; reduced blood and oxygen to the brain). HI in turn can cause neuropathology, though patterns of damage are sometimes diffuse and often highly variable (with clinical heterogeneity further magnified by rapid development). As a result, though HI injury is associated with long-term behavioral and cognitive impairments in general, pathology indices for specific infants can provide only limited insight into individual prognosis. The current paper addresses this important clinical issue using a rat model that simulates unilateral HI in a late preterm infant coupled with long-term behavioral evaluation in two processing domains-auditory discrimination and spatial learning/memory. We examined the following: (1) whether deficits on one task would predict deficits on the other (suggesting that subjects with more severe injury perform worse across all cognitive domains) or (2) whether domain-specific outcomes among HI-injured subjects would be uncorrelated (suggesting differential damage to orthogonal neural systems). All animals (sham and HI) received initial auditory testing and were assigned to additional auditory testing (group A) or spatial maze testing (group B). This allowed within-task (group A) and between-task (group B) correlation. Anatomic measures of cortical, hippocampal and ventricular volume (indexing HI damage) were also obtained and correlated against behavioral measures. Results showed that auditory discrimination in the juvenile period was not correlated with spatial working memory in adulthood (group B) in either sham or HI rats. Conversely, early auditory processing performance for group A HI animals significantly predicted auditory deficits in adulthood (p = 0.05; no correlation in shams). Anatomic data also revealed significant relationships between the volumes of different brain areas within both HI and shams, but anatomic measures did not correlate with any behavioral measure in the HI group (though we saw a hippocampal/spatial correlation in shams, in the expected direction). Overall, current data provide an impetus to enhance tools for characterizing individual HI-related pathology in neonates, which could provide more accurate individual prognoses within specific cognitive/behavioral domains and thus improved patient-specific early interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)440-452
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental Neuroscience
Issue number4-5
StatePublished - Jul 25 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 S. Karger AG, Basel.


  • Correlation
  • Hypoxia-ischemia
  • Neural substrates
  • Neurobehavioral
  • Preterm infant
  • Rapid auditory processing
  • Rodent model
  • Spatial working memory


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