Vocal development in dystonic rats


Vocal production, which requires the generation and integration of laryngeal and respiratory motor patterns, can be impaired in dystonia, a disorder believed due to dysfunction of sensorimotor pathways in the central nervous system. Herein, we analyze vocal and respiratory abnormalities in the dystonic (dt) rat, a well-characterized model of generalized dystonia. The dt rat is a recessive mutant with haploinsufficiency of Atcay which encodes the neuronally restricted protein caytaxin. Olivocerebellar functional abnormalities are central to the dt rat’s truncal and appendicular dystonia and could also contribute to vocal and respiratory abnormalities in this model system. Differences in vocal repertoire composition were found between homozygote and wild-type dt rat pups developing after 3 weeks of life. Those spectro-temporal differences were not paralleled by differences in vocal activity or maximum lung pressures during quiet breathing and vocalization. However, breathing rhythm was slower in homozygote pups. This slower breathing rhythm persisted into adulthood. Given that cerebellectomy eliminates truncal and appendicular dystonia in the dt rat, we hypothesize that the altered breathing patterns stem either from a disturbance in the maturation of respiratory pattern generators or from deficient extracerebellar caytaxin expression affecting normal respiratory pattern generation. The altered breathing rhythm associated with vocal changes in the murine model resembles aspects of vocal dysfunction that are seen in humans with sporadic dystonia.

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Physiological Reports