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Epilepsy Behav. 2004 Aug;5(4):446-54.

Effect of food deprivation during early development on cognition and neurogenesis in the rat.

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Department of Neurology, Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY, USA.


Food deprivation has been recognized as having pronounced beneficial effects in adult animals, increasing longevity, reducing seizure susceptibility, and enhancing resistance to neurotoxins. It is not known whether food deprivation in developing animals is neuroprotective or harmful. To evaluate the effects of food deprivation on brain development, we evaluated visual-spatial learning and memory and neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus in food-deprived (FD) and well-fed (WF) rats. To induce food deprivation, pups were removed from their dams for 12 hours per day from Postnatal Day (P) 2 to P19. FD and WF rat pups were then subjected to status epilepticus (SE) induced by lithium-pilocarpine at P20. After SE, neurogenesis was measured, while in another group of P38 rats, learning and memory were evaluated using the Morris water maze. Food deprivation was found to reduce neurogenesis when assessed after the period of food deprivation. Although SE reduced neurogenesis in the WF animals, it had little effect additional to food deprivation on neurogenesis in the FD rats. Compared with the WF group, FD rats had a mild impairment in memory in the water maze testing after SE. Our study demonstrates that food deprivation during the neonatal period in rats is associated with a decrease in neurogenesis and mild impairment of visual-spatial memory. Although SE decreased neurogenesis in the WF group, in FD animals, SE did not reduce neurogenesis more than what was seen with food deprivation alone. Our results suggest that although food deprivation during early development reduces dentate gyrus neurogenesis, the reduced neurogenesis is not a major factor in cognitive impairment after SE in FD rats.

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