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Physiol Behav. 1989 May;45(5):883-90.

The effects of undernutrition during early life on spatial learning.

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Department of Anatomy, Marischal College, University of Aberdeen, Scotland.


Recent research has shown that a lengthy period of undernutrition during early postnatal life can cause alterations in the morphological structure of the dentate gyrus. As this region is involved in the control of spatial memory, we decided to investigate whether undernourished rats also showed any deficits in this aspect of behaviour. Rats were undernourished from about birth until either 30 or 60 days of age and then nutritionally rehabilitated for a lengthy period before testing. There were significant differences in the body weight of control and undernourished rats in each experiment. The testing procedure involved rats being placed in a large pool of opaque water. They were required to swim to find a hidden platform located just below the water surface onto which they could escape. Each rat had to perform this test 20 times over a period of 3 days. The time taken and the total distance swum by each rat during each trial was measured. In Experiment 1, rats were familiarised with the water before testing took place, whereas in Experiment 2 they were not. There were no significant differences in the latency to find the platform or the distance swum between well-fed control and previously undernourished rats in either experiment. In conclusion, in our experiments we could not demonstrate that undernutrition during early life caused any deficits in spatial memory performance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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