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Neurobiol Aging. 2008 Feb;29(2):309-13. Epub 2006 Nov 13.

Naltrexone reverses age-induced cognitive deficits in rats.

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Department of Psychology, University of Iowa, E11 Seashore Hall, Iowa, City, IA 52242-1407, USA.


We evaluated young (3-4 months) and aged (22-24 months) male Sprague-Dawley rats in an attentional set-shifting procedure that assessed reversal, intradimensional shift (IDS), and extradimensional shift (EDS) discrimination learning tasks within one test session. These aspects of discrimination learning are sensitive to damage to distinct regions of frontal cortex. Compared to young animals, aged rats were significantly impaired on the EDS task and did not demonstrate significant impairment on the reversal or IDS tasks. The opioid antagonist naltrexone (2mg/kg, ip) was administered to young and aged rats prior to testing to assess possible improvements in aged-related cognitive impairments. Naltrexone (2mg/kg) attenuated the impairments in cognitive function in the EDS task for aged animals, but did not alter any task performance in the younger group. These results suggest that normal aging in rats is associated with impaired medial frontal cortex function as assessed by this attentional set-shifting procedure and opioid mediated mechanisms may represent a therapeutic target for drugs to improve cognitive deficits associated with aging.

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