Deer mice provide a non-pharmacologically induced model for the study of repetitive behaviors. In captivity, these animals develop frequent jumping and rearing that resemble clinical symptoms of obsessive-compulsive behavior (OCB), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), complex motor stereotypies (CMS), and Tourette's syndrome (TS). In this study, we pursue the mechanism of repetitive behaviors by performing stereological analyses and liquid chromatography/ mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) measurements of glutamate (Glut), GABA, 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC), dopamine (DA), leu-enkephalin (leu-enk), and dynorphin-A (dyn-A) in frontal cortex (FC), prefrontal cortex (PFC), and basal ganglia. The only significant stereological alteration was a negative correlation between repetitive behaviors and the cell count in the ventromedial striatum (VMS). Neurochemical analyses demonstrated a significant negative correlation between repetitive behaviors and endogenous opioids (leu-enk and dyn-A) in the FC - the site of origin of habitual behaviors and cortical projections to striatal MSNs participating in direct and indirect pathways. The precise neurochemical process by which endogenous opioids influence synaptic neurotransmission is unknown. One postulated cortical mechanism, supported by our findings, is an opioid effect on cortical interneuron GABA release and a consequent effect on glutamatergic cortical pyramidal cells. Anatomical changes in the VMS could have a role in repetitive behaviors, recognizing that this region influences goal-directed and habitual behaviors.
Keywords: Deer mice; Direct and indirect pathways; Endogenous opioids; Goal-directed pathway; Habitual pathway; Neurotransmitters; Repetitive behaviors.
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