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Neurobiol Aging. 2009 Apr;30(4):646-55. Epub 2007 Sep 21.

Spatial reference and working memory across the lifespan of male Fischer 344 rats.

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Department of Psychology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-4235, USA.


Loss of mnemonic function is among the earliest and most disconcerting consequences of the aging process. This study was designed to provide a comprehensive profile of spatial mnemonic abilities in male Fischer 344 (F344) rats across the lifespan. Young, middle-aged, and aged F344 rats were trained in spatial reference and working memory versions of the water maze task. There was a progressive age-related decline in spatial reference memory across the lifespan. Reliable individual differences were observed among aged rats, with some aged rats performing as well as young cohorts and others performing outside this range. An age-related delay-dependent decline was observed on a working memory version of the water maze task although no relationship between performance on reference and working memory tasks was present. Notably, middle-aged rats were impaired relative to young on both tasks. Together these data demonstrate that individual differences in spatial reference memory exist among aged F344 rats and provide novel data demonstrating an unrelated decline in working memory across the lifespan, suggesting that age-related mnemonic dysfunction may occur across multiple brain systems.

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