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The effect of congenital and adult-acquired toxoplasma infections on activity and responsiveness to novel stimulation in mice

Hay, J. and Hutchison, W.M. and Aitken, P.P. and Graham, David I. (1983) The effect of congenital and adult-acquired toxoplasma infections on activity and responsiveness to novel stimulation in mice. Annals of Tropical Medicine and Parasitology, 77 (5). pp. 483-495. ISSN 0003-4983

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Abstract

Activity and responsiveness to novel stimulation were assessed in three groups of mice infected with Toxoplasma . One group was infected when adult; two groups were infected congenitally, one born to dams infected during gestation, the other to dams chronically infected prior to mating. Each mouse was tested in a box, the floor of which was marked off into 16 equal squares, and its activity was measured over ten minutes by counting the number of times the mouse entered each square. Infected mice were more active. In addition, infected mice showed a smaller relative preference for the more novel central area of the box, especially towards the end of the observation period. These differences were independent of emotionality (as measured by defecation counts), general health (as measured by subjective health ratings and body weight) and the number of Toxoplasma tissue cysts in specified brain regions. The authors suggest that differences arise from pathological changes caused by proliferating toxoplasms in the brains of the infected mice; an immunopathological reaction due to the presence of tissue cysts in the brain may also be involved. Other possible factors contributing to observed deficits in behaviour are also discussed. The authors suggest that such deficits may render Toxoplasma -infected mice more susceptible to predation by the domestic cat, the definitive host of Toxoplasma.