In neonatally inoculated rats, Borna disease virus (BDV) leads to a persistent infection of the brain in the absence of an inflammatory response and is associated with neuroanatomic, developmental, physiologic, and behavioral abnormalities. One of the most dramatic sites of BDV-associated damage in the neonatal rat brain is the dentate gyrus, a neuroanatomic region believed to play a major role in spatial learning and memory. The absence of a generalized inflammatory response to neonatal BDV infection permits direct effects of viral damage to the dentate gyrus to be examined. In this report, neonatally BDV-infected rats at various stages of dentate gyrus degeneration were evaluated in the Morris water maze, a swimming test that assesses the rats' capacity to navigate by visual cues. Our data demonstrate progressive spatial learning and memory deficits in BDV-infected rats that coincided with a gradual decline in the estimated hippocampal dentate gyrus neuron density.
- Morris water maze
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