Impact Factor

Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Neurosci., 14 July 2011 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2011.00088

Behavioral patterns associated with chemotherapy-induced emesis: a potential signature for nausea in musk shrews

Charles C. Horn1,2,3,4*, Séverine Henry5, Kelly Meyers1 and Magnus S. Magnusson6
  • 1 Biobehavioral Medicine in Oncology Program, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
  • 2 Department of Medicine: Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
  • 3 Department of Anesthesiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
  • 4 Center for Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
  • 5 AgroSup Dijon, Dijon, France
  • 6 Human Behavior Laboratory, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland

Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms in patients with many diseases, including cancer and its treatments. Although the neurological basis of vomiting is reasonably well known, an understanding of the physiology of nausea is lacking. The primary barrier to mechanistic research on the nausea system is the lack of an animal model. Indeed investigating the effects of anti-nausea drugs in pre-clinical models is difficult because the primary readout is often emesis. It is known that animals show a behavioral profile of sickness, associated with reduced feeding and movement, and possibly these general measures are signs of nausea. Studies attempting to relate the occurrence of additional behaviors to emesis have produced mixed results. Here we applied a statistical method, temporal pattern (t-pattern) analysis, to determine patterns of behavior associated with emesis. Musk shrews were injected with the chemotherapy agent cisplatin (a gold standard in emesis research) to induce acute (<24 h) and delayed (>24 h) emesis. Emesis and other behaviors were coded and tracked from video files. T-pattern analysis revealed hundreds of non-random patterns of behavior associated with emesis, including sniffing, changes in body contraction, and locomotion. There was little evidence that locomotion was inhibited by the occurrence of emesis. Eating, drinking, and other larger body movements including rearing, grooming, and body rotation, were significantly less common in emesis-related behavioral patterns in real versus randomized data. These results lend preliminary evidence for the expression of emesis-related behavioral patterns, including reduced ingestive behavior, grooming, and exploratory behaviors. In summary, this statistical approach to behavioral analysis in a pre-clinical emesis research model could be used to assess the more global effects and limitations of drugs used to control nausea and its potential correlates, including reduced feeding and activity levels.

Keywords: emesis, vomiting, nausea, conditioned taste aversion, pica, avoidance, anorexia, cancer

Citation: Horn CC, Henry S, Meyers K and Magnusson MS (2011) Behavioral patterns associated with chemotherapy-induced emesis: a potential signature for nausea in musk shrews. Front. Neurosci. 5:88. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2011.00088

Received: 13 May 2011; Accepted: 25 June 2011; Published online: 14 July 2011.

Edited by:

Margaret A. Vizzard, University of Vermont College of Medicine, USA

Reviewed by:

John A. Rudd, Chinese University of Hong-Kong, China
Thomas Houpt, Florida State University, USA

Copyright: © 2011 Horn, Henry, Meyers and Magnusson. This is an open-access article subject to a non-exclusive license between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and other Frontiers conditions are complied with.

*Correspondence: Charles C. Horn, Hillman Cancer Center – Research Pavilion, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, G.17b, 5117 Centre Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA. e-mail: chorn@pitt.edu