Effects of postnatal malnutrition and senescence on learning, long-term memory, and extinction in the rat

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Abstract

There is a wealth of information indicating that the hippocampal formation is important for learning and memory consolidation. The hippocampus is very sensitive to ageing and developmentally stressful factors such as prenatal malnutrition, which produces anatomical alterations of hippocampal pyramidal cells as well as impaired spatial learning. On the other hand, there are no reports about differential effects of postnatal malnutrition, installed at birth and maintained all through life in young and aged rats, on learning and memory of active avoidance, a task with an important procedural component. We now report that learning and long-term retention of this task were impaired in young malnourished animals, but not in young control, senile control, and senile malnourished Sprague-Dawley rats; young and senile rats were 90 and 660 days of age, respectively. Extinction tests showed, however, that long-term memory of the malnourished groups and senile control animals is impaired as compared with the young control animals. These data strongly suggest that the learning and long-term retention impairments seen in the young animals were due to postnatal malnutrition; in the senile groups, this cognitive alteration did not occur, probably because ageing itself is an important factor that enables the brain to engage in compensatory mechanisms that reduce the effects of malnutrition. Nonetheless, ageing and malnutrition, conditions known to produce anatomic and functional hippocampal alterations, impede the maintenance of long-term memory, as seen during the extinction test. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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Martínez, Y., Díaz-Cintra, S., León-Jacinto, U., Aguilar-Vázquez, A., Medina, A. C., Quirarte, G. L., & Prado-Alcalá, R. A. (2009). Effects of postnatal malnutrition and senescence on learning, long-term memory, and extinction in the rat. Behavioural Brain Research, 203(1), 48–53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2009.04.016

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