Anomalies of cortical neuronal migration (e.g., microgyria (MG) and/or ectopias) are associated with a variety of language and cognitive deficits in human populations. In rodents, postnatal focal freezing lesions lead to the formation of cortical microgyria similar to those seen in human dyslexic brains, and also cause subsequent deficits in rapid auditory processing similar to those reported in human language impaired populations. Thus convergent findings support the ongoing study of disruptions in neuronal migration in rats as a putative model to provide insight on human language disability. Since deficits in working memory using both verbal and non-verbal tasks also characterize dyslexic populations, the present study examined the effects of neonatally induced bilateral cortical microgyria (MG) on working memory in adult male rats.
A delayed match-to-sample radial water maze task, in which the goal arm was altered among eight locations on a daily basis, was used to assess working memory performance in MG (n = 8) and sham (n = 10) littermates.
Over a period of 60 sessions of testing (each session comprising one pre-delay sample trial, and one post-delay test trial), all rats showed learning as evidenced by a significant decrease in overall test errors. However, MG rats made significantly more errors than shams during initial testing, and this memory deficit was still evident after 60 days (12 weeks) of testing. Analyses performed on daily error patterns showed that over the course of testing, MG rats utilized a strategy similar to shams (but with less effectiveness, as indicated by more errors).
These results indicate persistent abnormalities in the spatial working memory system in rats with induced disruptions of neocortical neuronal migration.