Publications and Research

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

August 2011

Abstract

Effects of aging on memory and brain morphology were examined in aged, 21-month-old, and young, 4-month-old, Fischer 344 female rats. Spatial memory was assessed using the object placement task, and dendritic spine density was determined on pyramidal neurons in the hippocampus following Golgi impregnation. Consistent with previous studies, aged females showed poorer object placement performance than young subjects. Young subjects significantly discriminated the location of objects with a 1.5-hour intertrial delay while aged subjects did not. Spine density of basal dendrites on CA1 pyramidal cells was 16% lower in the aged subjects as compared to the young subjects. No differences in spine density were found between young and aged subjects in basal dendrites of CA1 or in either dendritic field of CA3 pyramidal neurons. Thus, decreased hippocampal CA1 dendritic spine density in aged rats may contribute to poorer spatial memory as compared to young rats. The possibility that the neuroplastic changes observed in this study may pertain only to female subjects having had a specific set of life experiences is discussed. Different factors, such as reproductive status, diet, and handling may contribute to neuroplasticity of the brain during aging; however, this view requires further examination.

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