Water escape performance of adult RCS dystrophic and congenic rats: A functional and histomorphometric study

David DiLoreto, Manuel Del Cerro, Satya V. Reddy, Sujit Janardhan, Christopher Cox, Jeffrey Wyatt, Grant W. Balkema

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The dystrophic Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) rat undergoes photoreceptor degeneration due to a hereditary defect in the retinal pigment epithelium. The congenic rat remains unaffected. Although the retinal degeneration is well characterized, few functional studies of this strain are available. We wished to compare the visual function of congenic and dystrophic RCS rats using a water escape paradigm that tested their ability to find a submersed, randomly placed platform using a light source as a clue. Three different behavioral experiments were sequentially performed on all animals: Experiment 1 - The Light and Platform test measured the time to swim from the center of the pool to a platform located under a light clue. Each animal was given 10 trials. Experiment 2 - The No Light with Platform test was performed as above except no light clue was used. Experiment 3 - The Light and No platform test was performed with a light clue but without a platform. The animal was allowed to swim for 2 min. All trials were videotaped. After the final experiment, the animals were sacrificed and a histomorphometric analysis of their retinas were performed. Expt. 1 - The time to find the platform using light as a clue was greater for the dystrophic than for the congenic rats. Expt. 2 - In the absence of light clue, there was no significant difference in performance between the congenic and dystrophic animals. Expt. 3 - In the absence of a platform, a significantly greater amount of time was spent in the area indicated by the light clue by the congenic animals as compared to the dystrophic. Morphometric analysis revealed a mean number of 133 photoreceptor nuclear profiles/90 μm of retina for congenic rats as compared to 0.14 for dystrophic rats. This simplified version of the Morris water maze permits quantitative evaluation of visually-guided behavior in an important model of retinal degeneration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-172
Number of pages8
JournalBrain research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Apr 22 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • RCS rat
  • behavior
  • photoreceptor
  • retina
  • retinal degeneration
  • water maze

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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