In aged rats, differences in spatial learning and memory influence the response to late-life Environmental Enrichment

Marta Balietti, Arianna Pugliese, Fiorenzo Conti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

It has clearly been demonstrated that cognitive stimulation, physical exercise, and social engagement help counteract age-related cognitive decline. However, several important issues remain to be addressed. Given the wide differences in cognitive impairment found among individuals of the same age, identifying the subjects who will benefit most from late-life interventions is one such issue. Environmental Enrichment (EE) is a particularly valuable approach to do this. In this study, aged (21-month-old) rats were assigned to a better (BL) or a worse (WL) learner group (training phase) and to a non-impaired (NI) or an impaired (I) group (probe phase) by their performance on the Morris Water Maze, using the test performances of adult (12-month-old) rats as the cut-offs. The aged rats were retested after a 12-week EE or standard housing (SH) protocol. After 12 weeks, the performances of SH rats had deteriorated, whereas all rats benefited from EE, albeit in different ways. In particular, the animals assigned to the BL and the NI groups prior to EE still performed as well as the adult rats (performance preservation) whereas, critically, the animals assigned to the WL and the I groups before EE showed such improved performances that they reached the level of the adult rats (performance improvement), despite having aged further. EE seems to induce the preservation in BLs and the improvement in WLs of spatial search strategies and the preservation in NIs and the increase in Is of a focused and protract research of the escape point. Our findings suggest that late-life EE prevents spatial learning and memory decline in still cognitively preserved animals and stimulates residual functional reserve in already cognitively compromised animals. Future research should focus on individually tailored stimulation protocols to improve their effect and afford a better understanding of the underlying processes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111225
JournalExperimental Gerontology
Volume146
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

Keywords

  • Aging
  • Cognitive deficits
  • Environmental Enrichment
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Morris Water Maze test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Ageing
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Endocrinology
  • Cell Biology

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'In aged rats, differences in spatial learning and memory influence the response to late-life Environmental Enrichment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this