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The portacaval sham operation in rats affects acquisition but not memory of an active avoidance task

Laudino López, Marta Méndez, Magdalena Méndez-López, María Ángeles Aller, Jaime Arias, Fernando Díaz, and Jorge L. Arias

Abstract: Hepatic encephalopathy is one of the most important diseases and is the focus of investigation by many research groups. One of the most frequently used models is the portocaval shunt. This requires a surgically intervened group and also a sham operated group as control. Our objective was to examine whether the sham operation had physiological or behavioural consequences for the animals. Two groups of rats were studied: rats that had undergone a sham operation consisting in a laparotomy followed by clamping of the portal vein and inferior vena cava for 15 min; and an unoperated control group. The animals were then submitted to behavioural tests and plasma testosterone and corticosterone levels were determined. The sham-operated rats behaved slightly differently to the control rats in the open field. They tended to walk more in the central area. In the Morris pool, they learnt the task one day later than the control group. In the associative learning test, the sham operation prevented rats from being able to learn the task. However, the sham operation did not interfere with the rats remembering a previously learnt task. The sham group also presented higher levels of plasma corticosterone than controls. It seems necessary to reconsider what would constitute the most appropriate control group for portacaval shunt.

Keywords: sham-operation; open field; Morris water maze; active avoidance; Wistar rat.



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