Experimental sleep fragmentation impairs spatial reference but not working memory in Fischer/Brown Norway rats


Christopher P. Ward, Department of Psychology, University of Houston-Clear Lake, 2700 Bay Area Blvd., Box 22, Houston, TX 77058, USA. Tel.: 281 283 3303; fax: 281 283 3406; e-mail: wardchris@uhcl.edu


Sleep fragmentation is a common symptom in sleep disorders and other medical complaints resulting in excessive daytime sleepiness. The present study seeks to explore the effects of sleep fragmentation on learning and memory in a spatial reference memory task and a spatial working memory (WM) task. Fischer/Brown Norway rats lived in custom treadmills designed to induce locomotor activity every 2 min throughout a 24-h period. Separate rats were either on a treadmill schedule that allowed for consolidated sleep or experienced no locomotor activation. Rats were tested in one of two water maze-based tests of learning and memory immediately following 24 h of sleep interruption. Rats tested in a spatial reference memory task (eight massed acquisition trials) with a 24-h follow-up probe trial to assess memory retention showed no differences in acquisition performance but were impaired on the 24 h retention of the platform location. In contrast, the performance of rats tested in a spatial WM task (delayed matching to position task) was not impaired. Therefore, sleep fragmentation prior to testing impairs the ability to retain spatial reference memories but does not impair spatial reference memory acquisition or spatial WM in Fischer-Norway rats.