Contralateral increase in thigmotactic scanning following unilateral cryogenic barrel-cortex lesion in mice
Adult C57BL/6 mice received uni- or bilateral cryogenic or sham-lesions over the barrel field and their exploratory behaviour was assessed in an open field between 1 and 7 days post-lesion. Bilateral cortical lesions produced a short-lasting increase in thigmotactic scanning with both sides of the face on the first day of testing. Mice with a unilateral barrel-cortex lesion showed more contralateral wall scanning with a recovery to behavioural symmetry after 5–7 days. Furthermore, the increase in contralateral thigmotaxis was most pronounced in animals with damage to the left barrel field, indicative of a lateralization of the lesion-induced behavioural changes. The cortical lesions did not influence locomotor activity and the rate of habituation to the open field (habituation ‘learning’). Referring to recent electrophysiological findings, we hypothesize that the lesion established a lateralized source of increased neuronal excitability within the affected barrel-cortex, leading to more behaviour with its corresponding vibrissae. Alternatively, if the lesion results in contralateral ‘neglect’ in terms of input, the increased scanning with the affected vibrissae may reflect an attempt of the system to compensate for this with an increase in usage.