Phasic changes in heart rate were used to evaluate sensory reactivity and habituation in 5‐ and 12‐day‐old normal and decerebrate rats. Twenty‐four and forty‐eight hours after thalamic transection, temporally paired auditory or vibrotactile stimuli were repeatedly presented in a sensory disparity paradigm. While tone stimuli failed to evoke consistent cardiac change, vibrotactile stimuli produced cardiac decelerations, characteristic of the orienting response, in all subject groups. The magnitude of this response was comparable in both normal and decerebrate subjects at 5 days of age, but demonstrated a more notable increase with age in the normal subjects. Habituation of the cardiac response was apparent in all groups, and was not significantly different in the normal and decerebrate subjects. No consistent responses were apparent in any group to the unexpected omission of the second stimulus of the pair. Results indicate that orienting and habituation processes can persist in the absence of the cerebral hemispheres and support the view that lower levels of the neuraxis are capable of mediating a range of adaptive functions.
Developmental Psychobiology – Wiley
Published: Nov 1, 1985
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