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Behav Neurosci. 2007 Jun;121(3):475-82.

Dissociating the long-term effects of fetal/neonatal iron deficiency on three types of learning in the rat.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA.


Iron deficiency (ID) is a common nutrient deficiency worldwide. This condition is linked to changes in myelin formation, dopaminergic function, and energy metabolism. Early ID results in persistent long-term cognitive and behavioral disturbances in children, despite a return to normal iron status. The present study assesses formerly ID adult rats on maze learning tasks that depend on specific brain regions related to learning, specifically the hippocampus, striatum, and amygdala. Rat dams were fed ID chow starting on gestational Day 2 through postnatal Day 7, and behavioral testing began at postnatal Day 65--following a return to normal iron status. Formerly ID rats exhibited delayed acquisition of the hippocampus-dependant task and no differences from controls on the striatum- and amygdala-dependent tasks. These findings likely reflect long-term reduction in but not abolition of hippocampus-dependent learning and preserved function in other brain structures (e.g., striatum and amygdala).

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