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Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research
Volume 2011, Article ID 316386, 7 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2011/316386
Research Article

Age-Related Deficits in Spatial Memory and Hippocampal Spines in Virgin, Female Fischer 344 Rats

1Department of Psychology, Hunter College, CUNY, New York, NY 10065, USA
2Biopsychology and Behavioral Neuroscience Program, The Graduate Center, CUNY, New York, NY 10016, USA
3Department of Science Education, Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, Hempstead, NY 11549, USA

Received 4 May 2011; Accepted 27 June 2011

Academic Editor: Marco Malavolta

Copyright © 2011 Victoria N. Luine et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Effects of aging on memory and brain morphology were examined in aged, 21-month-old, and young, 4-month-old, Fischer 344 female rats. Spatial memory was assessed using the object placement task, and dendritic spine density was determined on pyramidal neurons in the hippocampus following Golgi impregnation. Consistent with previous studies, aged females showed poorer object placement performance than young subjects. Young subjects significantly discriminated the location of objects with a 1.5-hour intertrial delay while aged subjects did not. Spine density of basal dendrites on CA1 pyramidal cells was 16% lower in the aged subjects as compared to the young subjects. No differences in spine density were found between young and aged subjects in basal dendrites of CA1 or in either dendritic field of CA3 pyramidal neurons. Thus, decreased hippocampal CA1 dendritic spine density in aged rats may contribute to poorer spatial memory as compared to young rats. The possibility that the neuroplastic changes observed in this study may pertain only to female subjects having had a specific set of life experiences is discussed. Different factors, such as reproductive status, diet, and handling may contribute to neuroplasticity of the brain during aging; however, this view requires further examination.