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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2016 (2016), Article ID 7385314, 10 pages
Research Article

A High-Fat Diet Causes Impairment in Hippocampal Memory and Sex-Dependent Alterations in Peripheral Metabolism

Cognition & Neuroscience Program, School of Behavioral & Brain Sciences, University of Texas at Dallas, 800 W. Campbell Road, Richardson, TX 75080, USA

Received 22 April 2015; Revised 15 July 2015; Accepted 29 July 2015

Academic Editor: Pablo Enriori

Copyright © 2016 Erica L. Underwood and Lucien T. Thompson. 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.


While high-fat diets are associated with rising incidence of obesity/type-2 diabetes and can induce metabolic and cognitive deficits, sex-dependent comparisons are rarely systematically made. Effects of exclusive consumption of a high-fat diet (HFD) on systemic metabolism and on behavioral measures of hippocampal-dependent memory were compared in young male and female LE rats. Littermates were fed from weaning either a HFD or a control diet (CD) for 12 wk prior to testing. Sex-different effects of the HFD were observed in classic metabolic signs associated with type-2 diabetes. Males fed the HFD became obese, and had elevated fasted blood glucose levels, elevated corticosterone, and impaired glucose-tolerance, while females on the HFD exhibited only elevated corticosterone. Regardless of peripheral metabolism alteration, rats of both sexes fed the HFD were equally impaired in a spatial object recognition memory task associated with impaired hippocampal function. While the metabolic changes reported here have been characterized previously in males, the set of diet-induced effects observed here in females are novel. Impaired memory can have significant cognitive consequences, over the short-term and over the lifespan. A significant need exists for comparative research into sex-dependent differences underlying obesity and metabolic syndromes relating systemic, cognitive, and neural plasticity mechanisms.