Aging is associated with deficits in long-term declarative memory formation, and wide differences in performance can be observed among aged individuals. The cellular substrates of these deficits and the reasons for such marked individual differences are not yet fully understood. In the present study, morphologic parameters of synapses and synaptic mitochondria in stratum molecolare of CA1 hippocampal region were investigated in aged (26- to 27-month-old) female rats after a single trial inhibitory avoidance task. In this memory protocol animals learn to avoid a dark compartment in which they received a mild, inescapable foot shock. Rats were tested 3 and 6 or 9 hours after the training, divided into good and bad responders according to their performance (retention times above or below 100 seconds, respectively) and immediately sacrificed. The number of synapses and synaptic mitochondria per cubic micrometer of tissue (numeric density), the average area of synapses and volume of synaptic mitochondria, the total area of synapses per cubic micrometer of tissue, the percentage of perforated synapses and the overall volume of mitochondria per cubic micrometer of tissue were evaluated. In the good responder group, the numeric density of synapses and mitochondria was significantly higher and the average mitochondrial volume was significantly smaller 9 hours versus 6 hours after the training. No significant differences were observed among bad responders. Thus, better performances in passive avoidance memory task are correlated with more efficient plastic remodeling of synaptic contacts and mitochondria in hippocampal CA1. Present findings indicate that maintenance of synaptic plastic reactivity during aging is a critical requirement for preserving long-term memory consolidation.
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