Progressive Cognitive and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder-Related Behavioral Traits in Rats Exposed to Repetitive Low-Level Blast

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Many military veterans who experienced blast-related traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan currently have chronic cognitive and mental health problems including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Besides static symptoms, new symptoms may emerge or existing symptoms may worsen. TBI is also a risk factor for later development of neurodegenerative diseases. In rats exposed to repetitive low-level blast overpressure (BOP), robust and enduring cognitive and PTSD-related behavioral traits develop that are present for at least one year after blast exposure. Here we determined the time-course of the appearance of these traits by testing rats in the immediate post-blast period. Three cohorts of rats examined within the first eight weeks exhibited no behavioral phenotype or, in one cohort, features of anxiety. None showed the altered cued fear responses or impaired novel object recognition characteristic of the fully developed phenotype. Two cohorts retested 36 to 42 weeks after blast exposure exhibited the expanded behavioral phenotype including anxiety as well as altered cued fear learning and impaired novel object recognition. Combined with previous work, the chronic behavioral phenotype has been observed in six cohorts of blast-exposed rats studied at 3-4 months or longer after blast injury, and the three cohorts studied here document the progressive nature of the cognitive/behavioral phenotype. These studies suggest the existence of a latent, delayed emerging and progressive blast-induced cognitive and behavioral phenotype. The delayed onset has implications for the evolution of post-blast neurobehavioral syndromes in military veterans and its modeling in experimental animals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2030-2045
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
Issue number14
StatePublished - 15 Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • adult brain injury
  • behavioral assessments
  • neurodegenerative disorders
  • traumatic brain injury


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