Thyroid hormone is essential for proper development of the mammalian CNS. Previous studies have documented a decrease in the ability of neonatal hypothyroid animals to learn and to habituate to maze tests and an increase in spontaneous activity. However, there is little information about the effects of perinatal (i.e. perinatal and postnatal) hypothyroidism on behaviour. The aim of the present work was to investigate the longitudinal effects of perinatal hypothyroidism on certain aspects of the behaviour in rats. Neuromotor competence was tested at 21, 40 and 60 days, novelty-directed exploratory behaviour and anxiety-related behaviour were evaluated at 40 and 60 days by means of the Boissier tests and associative learning ability was tested at 80 days by means of a step-through passive avoidance task. The persistence of the effects of perinatal hypothyroidism on psychomotor performance was highly dependent on the task examined. Perinatal hypothyroidism caused an increase of locomotor activity as revealed by the total distance travelled in the Boissier test and this increase also comprised a component of decreased anxiety-related behaviour. Methimazole-treated subjects also had higher head-dip scores than controls at 40 days while no differences were observed at 60 days. Finally, our results showed that methimazole-treated rats performed poorly in a passive avoidance learning task.
- Perinatal hypothyroidism
- Step-through passive avoidance task