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Toxoplasma infection and response to novelty in mice

Hay, J. and Aitken, P.P. and Graham, D.I. (1984) Toxoplasma infection and response to novelty in mice. Parasitology Research (Zeitschrift fur Parasitenkunde), 70 (5). pp. 575-588. ISSN 0044-3255

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Three groups of mice were infected with Toxoplasma and used for behavioral testing using a Y-maze. One group was infected when adult and two groups congenitally, one of these born to dams infected during gestation, the other to dams chronically infected prior to mating. In an initial habituation period each mouse was exposed to a black arm and stem of the maze, entrance to a white arm being blocked by a transparent door. In a subsequent free-choice trial both arms were black and the mouse was free to explore all parts of the maze. During both periods infected mice were more active than controls. Infected mice engaged in less grooming behaviour indicative of less approach-avoidance conflict than controls prior to entry into a choice arm at the beginning of the free-choice trial. It is suggested that the reported behavioural changes would lead to dissemination of the infection in the environment by ultimately making infected mouse intermediate hosts more susceptible to predation by domestic cats, the definitive hosts of Toxoplasma.