Hundreds of California sea lions are affected each year by domoic acid (DA), a naturally occurring toxin caused by off-shore algal blooms. Affected animals can suffer from seizures, memory loss, behavioral changes and structural brain damage. Unfortunately, currently available tools to diagnose, monitor and assess response to treatment for DA toxicosis have some significant draw backs. To address this issue, researchers will test the validity of using an electroencephalogram (EEG), a tool for interpreting electrical activity in the brain, to better assess the health status of sea lions with DA toxicosis during hospitalization. If successful, the team will use their data to develop a workable seizure monitoring tool for DA-affected sea lions in rehabilitation facilities. The team hopes EEG monitoring will allow for more accurate diagnosis of underlying conditions that may impact a sea lion’s ability to function in the wild, as well as help monitor the animal’s condition while in hospital. Researchers also hope this new tool will provide an objective metric to test whether new treatments for DA toxicity are effective in California sea lions and possibly other marine mammals.
Grant amount awarded
Paul Buckmaster, DVM, PhD