Excitotoxic lesions of the lateral hypothalamus made by N-methyl-d-aspartate in the rat: behavioural, histological and biochemical analyses

P. Winn, A. Clark, M. Hastings, J. Clark, M. Latimer, E. Rugg, B. Brownlee

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The purpose of this study was to determine whether the excitotoxin N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) could be used to make lesions within the lateral hypothalamus and what effect they had on regulatory behaviour. Larger doses of NMDA were effetive in the lateral hypothalmus but tended to spread into adjacent structures; smaller doses made lesions which were contained within the lateral hypothalamus and zona incerta. Lesions which damaged the lateral hypothalamus and surrounding tissue had no effect on the concentration of dopamine (or its metabolites) in the dorsal or ventral striatum. The large lesions, including extrahypothalamic damage, were associated with long-term deficits in lab chow and water intake, but rats with lesions restricted to the lateral hypothalamus made good recoveries, eating and drinking normally from around the tenth day postoperation. Body weight gain was normal in these rats, though there was a long-term loss of body weight compared to controls. Unoperated rats with food intake yoked to lesioned rats showed identical long-term changes in body weight, suggesting that the changes in body weight of lesioned rats may be a reflection of changes in eating and drinking rather than a disruption of a body weight set-point mechanism. Motor deficits were not found; all rats were able to consume without difficulty saccharin solutions. All lateral hypothalamic lesioned rats failed to respond to dehydrating, dipsogenic of glucoprivic challenges. It is concluded that NMDA is an effective toxin in the rat lateral hypothalamus, sparing ascending dopamine fibres, and that the main effect of such lesions is an impairment in responding to physiological challenges.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)628–636
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 1990


  • dopamine
  • drinking
  • eating
  • excitotoxic lesion
  • lateral hypothalamus
  • N-methyl-d-aspartate
  • rats


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