Laterality and region-specific tau phosphorylation correlate with PTSD-related behavioral traits in rats exposed to repetitive low-level blast

Georgina Perez Garcia, Rita De Gasperi, Miguel A. Gama Sosa, Gissel M. Perez, Alena Otero-Pagan, Dylan Pryor, Rania Abutarboush, Usmah Kawoos, Patrick R. Hof, Dara L. Dickstein, David G. Cook, Sam Gandy, Stephen T. Ahlers, Gregory A. Elder*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Military veterans who experience blast-related traumatic brain injuries often suffer from chronic cognitive and neurobehavioral syndromes. Reports of abnormal tau processing following blast injury have raised concerns that some cases may have a neurodegenerative basis. Rats exposed to repetitive low-level blast exhibit chronic neurobehavioral traits and accumulate tau phosphorylated at threonine 181 (Thr181). Using data previously reported in separate studies we tested the hypothesis that region-specific patterns of Thr181 phosphorylation correlate with behavioral measures also previously determined and reported in the same animals. Elevated p-tau Thr181 in anterior neocortical regions and right hippocampus correlated with anxiety as well as fear learning and novel object localization. There were no correlations with levels in amygdala or posterior neocortical regions. Particularly striking were asymmetrical effects on the right and left hippocampus. No systematic variation in head orientation toward the blast wave seems to explain the laterality. Levels did not correlate with behavioral measures of hyperarousal. Results were specific to Thr181 in that no correlations were observed for three other phospho-acceptor sites (threonine 231, serine 396, and serine 404). No consistent correlations were linked with total tau. These correlations are significant in suggesting that p-tau accumulation in anterior neocortical regions and the hippocampus may lead to disinhibited amygdala function without p-tau elevation in the amygdala itself. They also suggest an association linking blast injury with tauopathy, which has implications for understanding the relationship of chronic blast-related neurobehavioral syndromes in humans to neurodegenerative diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Article number33
JournalActa Neuropathologica Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal model
  • Behavior
  • Blast
  • Laterality
  • Rat
  • Tau
  • Traumatic brain injury


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