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Early age-dependent impairments of context-dependent extinction learning, object recognition, and object-place learning occur in rats

Authors

  • Valentina Wiescholleck,

    1. Department of Neurophysiology, Medical Faculty Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany
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  • Marion Agnès Emma André,

    1. Department of Neurophysiology, Medical Faculty Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany
    2. International Graduate School for Neuroscience, Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany
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  • Denise Manahan-Vaughan

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Neurophysiology, Medical Faculty Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany
    2. International Graduate School for Neuroscience, Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany
    • Correspondence to: Denise Manahan-Vaughan, Department of Neurophysiology, Medical Faculty, Ruhr University Bochum, MA 4/150, Universitaetsstr. 150, 44780 Bochum. Germany. E-mail: denise.manahan-vaughan@rub.de

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ABSTRACT

The hippocampus is vulnerable to age-dependent memory decline. Multiple forms of memory depend on adequate hippocampal function. Extinction learning comprises active inhibition of no longer relevant learned information concurrent with suppression of a previously learned reaction. It is highly dependent on context, and evidence exists that it requires hippocampal activation. In this study, we addressed whether context-based extinction as well as hippocampus-dependent tasks, such as object recognition and object-place recognition, are equally affected by moderate aging. Young (7-8 week old) and older (7-8 month old) Wistar rats were used. For the extinction study, animals learned that a particular floor context indicated that they should turn into one specific arm (e.g., left) to receive a food reward. On the day after reaching the learning criterion of 80% correct choices, the floor context was changed, no reward was given and animals were expected to extinguish the learned response. Both, young and older rats managed this first extinction trial in the new context with older rats showing a faster extinction performance. One day later, animals were returned to the T-maze with the original floor context and renewal effects were assessed. In this case, only young but not older rats showed the expected renewal effect (lower extinction ratio as compared to the day before). To assess general memory abilities, animals were tested in the standard object recognition and object-place memory tasks. Evaluations were made at 5 min, 1 h and 7 day intervals. Object recognition memory was poor at short-term and intermediate time-points in older but not young rats. Object-place memory performance was unaffected at 5 min, but impaired at 1 h in older but not young rats. Both groups were impaired at 7 days. These findings support that not only aspects of general memory, but also context-dependent extinction learning, are affected by moderate aging. This may reflect less flexibility in revising hard-wired knowledge or reduced adaptability to new learning challenges. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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