Animal Models and Childhood Behavioral Disturbances: Dopamine Depletion in the Newborn Rat Pup

Jonathan E. Alpert, Donald J. Cohen, Bennett A. Shaywitz, Mark Piccirillo, Sally E. Shaywitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Abnormalities in catecholamine metabolism have been implicated in the pathogenesis of various psychiatric disturbances of childhood, including minimal brain or cerebral dysfunction (MBD), childhood psychosis, affective disturbances, and the syndrome of chronic multiple tics. Developmental research on the relationship between brain function and behavior can be facilitated by appropriate animal models, interpreted conservatively. When rat pups are selectively depleted of brain dopamine by treatment with 6-hydroxydopamine in the newborn period, they display a constellation of behaviors similar to those seen in childhood MBD: hyperactivity, disturbed habituation, cognitive deficits, and “normalization” with stimulant medication. As adults, dopamine-depleted rats exhibit aberrations in mothering. This and similar models may help clarify certain aspects of the developmental associations between alterations in brain physiology, abnormal psychological mechanisms, and the emergence of behavioral deviance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-251
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1978
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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