Picornaviruses are a socioeconomically important family of viruses that includes the rhinoviruses and enteroviruses. Many of these viruses, including the "common cold" Coxsackie virus A21, maintain neurovirulent potential and may induce hippocampal injury. The behavioral implications of this injury have not been adequately explored. Using C57BL/6J mice infected with Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus, we examined the formation of spatial memories using the Morris water maze test. Virus-infected mice had greater search error compared to sham-infected animals during the location of a hidden platform and were unable to discriminate the location of the training quadrant during the final probe trial. Furthermore, sham-infected mice were place responders whereas virus-infected mice were cue responders, indicating a lack of spatial memory formation in infected animals. Importantly, the degree of memory impairment was correlated to the extent of hippocampal injury. This suggests that picornavirus infection of the human CNS may also result in at least some degree of neurologic deficit. An important implication of such subclinical virus-induced neurologic deficit is that the injury may accumulate over the lifetime of the individual, eventually leading to the manifestation of clinical cognitive or memory deficits.
- Morris water maze
- Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus
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