According to DSM-IV there are three subtypes of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, namely: ADHD predominantly inattentive type (ADHD-PI), ADHD predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type (ADHD-HI), and ADHD combined type (ADHD-C). These subtypes may represent distinct neurobehavioral disorders of childhood onset with separate etiologies. The diagnosis of ADHD is behaviorally based; therefore, investigations into its possible etiologies should be based in behavior. Animal models of ADHD demonstrate construct validity when they accurately reproduce elements of the etiology, biochemistry, symptoms, and treatment of the disorder. Spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) fulfill many of the validation criteria and compare well with clinical cases of ADHD-C. The present study describes a novel rat model of the predominantly inattentive subtype (ADHD-PI).
ADHD-like behavior was tested with a visual discrimination task measuring overactivity, impulsiveness and inattentiveness. Several strains with varied genetic background were needed to determine what constitutes a normal comparison. Five groups of rats were used: SHR/NCrl spontaneously hypertensive and WKY/NCrl Wistar/Kyoto rats from Charles River; SD/NTac Sprague Dawley and WH/HanTac Wistar rats from Taconic Europe; and WKY/NHsd Wistar/Kyoto rats from Harlan. DNA was analyzed to determine background differences in the strains by PCR genotyping of eight highly polymorphic microsatellite markers and 2625 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).
Compared to appropriate comparison strains (WKY/NHsd and SD/NTac rats), SHR/NCrl showed ADHD-C-like behavior: striking overactivity and poor sustained attention. Compared to WKY/NHsd rats, WKY/NCrl rats showed inattention, but no overactivity or impulsiveness. WH/HanTac rats deviated significantly from the other control groups by being more active and less attentive than the WKY/NHsd and SD/NTac rats. We also found substantial genomic differences between the WKY/NCrl and WKY/NHsd rats for eight short tandem repeat loci and 2625 SNPs. About 33.5 percent of the genome differs between the two WKY rat substrains, with large stretches of divergence on each chromosome.
These data provide solid behavioral and genetic evidence that the WKY/NCrl and WKY/NHsd rats should be considered as separate substrains. Moreover, the behavioral features of the WKY/NCrl rat indicate that it should be a useful model for ADHD-PI, the primarily inattentive subtype of ADHD. The SD/NTac and the WH/HanTac rats show significant genetic and/or behavioral differences from WKY/NHsd rats and appear not to be appropriate controls in studies using the SHR/NCrl. The present results support the conclusion that SHR/NCrl is the best validated animal model of ADHD-C. The overactivity, impulsiveness and deficient sustained attention of the SHR/NCrl strain are independent behaviors. Thus, overactivity does not account for this strain's impulsiveness and deficient sustained attention. Finally, the present study shows that great care has to be exercised to select the model and comparison groups.