Rats Who Can't Read Good: A Rodent Model for Dyslexia

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Accesibility:  Intermediate

Dyslexic rats? Really? Well, these rats can’t read, but they’re still used as an animal model for dyslexia.

First, some background. The underlying cause of dyslexia is still under debate, but it’s generally accepted that it involves deficits in auditory and phonological (language sounds) processing, with a possibility of visual deficits as well. Post mortem studies of dyslexic human brains have turned up brain anomalies, including cortical ectopias (nests of neurons in the wrong layer in the cortex) and focal microgyri (micro folding). Researchers have also found abnormalities in the thalamus and cerebellum.

Dyslexia rat models are created by inducing these same abnormalities, usually focal microgyria and molecular layer ectopias, in rats. Interestingly, some of these rats develop deficits in rapid auditory processing, which is important for phonological processing in humans. Introducing microgyria also causes thalamic changes in male rats, similar to dyslexic thalami in humans. The thalamic changes are also associated with auditory perceptual deficits in the males.

Another interesting observation:  boys are more at risk than girls for dyslexia, and the same trend occurs in rats. Young male rats have a higher risk for developing rapid auditory processing deficits from induced cortical malformations. There seems to be something about the male brain that increases risk for language related disorders.

Hmm, anyone want to start Hooked on Phonics for rodents?

[And kudos to anyone who got the Zoolander reference in the title]

Galaburda AM, LoTurco J, Ramus F, Fitch RH, & Rosen GD (2006). From genes to behavior in developmental dyslexia. Nature neuroscience, 9 (10), 1213-7 PMID: 17001339


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