Chronic behavioral and cognitive deficits in a rat survival model of paraoxon toxicity

Neurotoxicology. 2014 Sep;44:352-7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2014.08.008. Epub 2014 Aug 27.


Organophosphate (OP) compounds, including paraoxon (POX), are similar to nerve agents such as sarin. There is a growing concern that OP agents could be weaponized to cause mass civilian causalities. We have developed a rodent survival model of POX toxicity that is being used to evaluate chronic morbidity and to screen for medical countermeasures against severe OP exposure. It is well known that the survivors of nerve gas and chronic OP exposure exhibit neurobehavioral deficits such as mood changes, depression, and memory impairments. In this study we investigated whether animals surviving severe POX exposure exhibited long-term neurological impairments. POX exposure produced overt signs of cholinergic toxicity. Rats were rescued using an optimized atropine, 2-PAM and diazepam therapy. Surviving rats were studied using established behavioral assays for identifying symptoms of depression and memory impairment 3-months after POX exposure. In the forced swim test, POX rats exhibited increased immobility time indicative of a despair-like state. In the sucrose preference test, POX rats consumed significantly less sucrose water indicating anhedonia-like condition. POX rats also displayed increased anxiety as characterized by significantly lower performance in the open arm of the elevated plus maze. Further, when tested with a novel object recognition paradigm, POX rats exhibited a negative discrimination ratio indicative of impaired recognition memory. The results indicate that this model of survival from severe POX exposure can be employed to study some of the molecular bases for OP-induced chronic behavioral and cognitive comorbidities and develop therapies for their treatment.

Keywords: Anxiety; Chronic depression; Memory impairments; Paraoxon; Sprague-Dawley rats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Anhedonia / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / chemically induced
  • Atropine / pharmacology
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Cognition Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Depression / chemically induced
  • Diazepam / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Organophosphate Poisoning*
  • Paraoxon*
  • Pralidoxime Compounds / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Recognition, Psychology / drug effects


  • Pralidoxime Compounds
  • Atropine
  • pralidoxime
  • Diazepam
  • Paraoxon