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Neurobiol Aging. 1989 Mar-Apr;10(2):133-41.

Age-related impairment in complex maze learning in rats: relationship to neophobia and cholinergic antagonism.

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Molecular Physiology and Genetics Section, Francis Scott Key Medical Center, Baltimore, MD 21224.


Scopolamine was utilized to assess cholinergic muscarinic blockade on the performance of young (3 months) and aged (23 months) male F-344 rats in a 14-unit T-maze task. Prior to training, a portion of each age group received a gustatory neophobia test (percent consumption of a novel sucrose solution) to assess involvement of norepinephrine systems implicated in age-related impairments of rats in other memory tasks. All rats were pretrained in one-way active avoidance (1.0 mA) on 3 consecutive days. Rats meeting criterion (8/10 avoidances on last day) began maze training the next day consisting of 10 trials on 2 consecutive days. The task required the rat to negotiate each of 5 maze segments within 10 sec to avoid scrambled footshock (1.0 mA). Rats received an intraperitoneal injection of either scopolamine hydrochloride (0.5 mg/kg or 0.75 mg/kg) or saline vehicle 30 min prior to maze testing. Consistent with past reports, aged rats were more neophobic (i.e., consumed less sucrose) than were young rats, but the degree of neophobia was not significantly correlated with maze error performance in either age group. Also consistent with previous studies, aged rats were significantly impaired, compared to young counterparts, in all maze performance measures including errors, alternation errors, runtime, and shock frequency and duration. Significant scopolamine-induced deficits were observed in both age groups, but only in errors and alternation strategy. No age by drug interaction was manifested in any performance measure indicating that scopolamine impaired learning of young and aged rats equivalently.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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