Motivational Impairment is Accompanied by Corticoaccumbal Dysfunction in the BACHD-Tg5 Rat Model of Huntington's Disease

Cereb Cortex. 2019 Dec 17;29(11):4763-4774. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhz009.


Neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as avolition, apathy, and anhedonia, precede the onset of debilitating motor symptoms in Huntington's disease (HD), and their development may give insight into early disease progression and treatment. However, the neuronal and circuit mechanisms of premanifest HD pathophysiology are not well-understood. Here, using a transgenic rat model expressing the full-length human mutant HD gene, we find early and profound deficits in reward motivation in the absence of gross motor abnormalities. These deficits are accompanied by significant and progressive dysfunction in corticostriatal processing and communication among brain areas critical for reward-driven behavior. Together, our results define early corticostriatal dysfunction as a possible pathogenic contributor to psychiatric disturbances and may help identify potential pharmacotherapeutic targets for the treatment of HD.

Keywords: Huntington’s disease; corticostriatal; motivation; nucleus accumbens; prefrontal cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Huntingtin Protein / genetics
  • Huntington Disease / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / physiopathology*
  • Optogenetics
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Rats, Transgenic
  • Reward*


  • HTT protein, human
  • Huntingtin Protein