Background: Vision plays a key role in some behavior tests for rats. Okayama University-type retinal prosthesis (OUReP) is a photoelectric dye-coupled polyethylene film which generates electric potential in response to light and stimulates nearby neurons. This study aims to assess vision in retinal dystrophic (RCS) rats, in comparison with normal rats, by selected behavior tests. We also examined whether the tests could detect vision changes in RCS rats with dye-coupled film implantation. Methods: Data sets were 5 normal rats, 4 untreated RCS rats, 7 RCS rats with dye-coupled films implanted at the age of 7 weeks after excluding unsuccessful implantation at autopsy. Behavior tests chosen were landing foot splay and visual forelimb-placing response in the menu of functional observational battery, operant-conditioning lever-press response and light/dark box test. Results: Normal visual placing response was significantly less frequent in untreated RCS rats at the age of 9 and 11 weeks, compared with normal rats (P = 0.0027, chi-square test) while normal response was significantly more frequent at the age of 9 weeks in RCS rats with dye-coupled film implantation, compared with untreated RCS rats (P = 0.0221). In operant-conditioning lever-press test, the correct response rate was significantly lower in untreated RCS rats than in normal rats at the age of 9 weeks (P < 0.05, Tukey-Kramer test) while the rate was not significantly different between normal rats and RCS rats with dye-coupled film implantation. In light/dark box test, the time to enter dark box was significantly shorter in normal rats, compared with untreated RCS rats or RCS rats with dye-coupled film implantation (P < 0.05, Tukey-Kramer test). Conclusions: Behavior tests of functional observational battery, operant-conditioning lever-press response and light/dark box test discriminated vision between normal rats and RCS rats. The visual placing response and operant-conditioning lever-press test might have sensitivity to detect vision recovery in RCS rats with OUReP implantation.
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