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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Effect of Age on the Radial Arm Water Maze - a Test of Spatial Learning and Memory

Authors
item Shukitt-Hale, Barbara
item Shukitt-Hale, Barbara
item Szprengiel, Aleksandra - TUFTS, HNRCA
item Szprengiel, Aleksandra - TUFTS, HNRCA
item Joseph, James
item Joseph, James

Submitted to: Neurobiology of Aging
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 21, 2003
Publication Date: February 3, 2004
Citation: Shukitt Hale, B., Szprengiel, A., Joseph, J.A. 2004. Effect of age on the radial arm water maze - a test of spatial learning and memory. Neurobiology of Aging. 25(2):223-229.

Interpretive Summary: Aged rats show deficits in performance on memory tasks, particularly those that use spatial learning. In this study, we measured memory in young (6 mo) and old (21 mo) male F344 rats in a relatively new task, the 8-arm radial water maze (RAWM). Rats were placed in the RAWM in different start arms with the platform in the same arm for 3 days (5 trials/day); the goal arm was changed on day 4. It took the old rats longer to find the hidden platform on the day 4, demonstrating spatial impairment in the aged rats. Old rats also made significantly more errors, both long-term and short-term memory errors, than young rats on all days. It is likely that the old rats used non-spatial strategies to solve the task, and therefore were impaired in learning a new platform location. The RAWM is proved to be a reliable, sensitive, and powerful additional test to assess age-related spatial learning and memory deficits, combining the advantages of other memory tests, such as the Morris water maze and the radial arm maze while minimizing the disadvantages.

Technical Abstract: Aged rats show decrements in performance on cognitive tasks that require the use of spatial learning and memory, and these alterations appear to occur primarily in secondary memory systems. We used the 8-arm radial water maze (RAWM), which can assess both reference and working memory errors simultaneously, to measure spatial learning as a function of age in young (6 mo) and old (21 mo) male F344 rats. Rats were placed in the RAWM in different start arms with the same goal arm for 3 days (5 trials/day); the goal arm was changed on day 4. Old rats demonstrated spatial learning and memory impairment as evidenced by increased latencies to find the hidden platform when it was moved on the reversal day. Old rats made significantly more errors, both reference and working memory errors, than young rats on all days. This ability to assess number of errors makes the RAWM an especially sensitive and powerful task to assess age-related deficits in cognitive performance because other tests only measure latency during acquisition of the task. It is likely that the old rats utilized non-spatial strategies to solve the task since they showed a lack of spatial preference, and therefore were impaired in learning a new platform location. The RAWM is a reliable, sensitive, and powerful additional test to assess age-related spatial learning and memory deficits, combining the advantages of the Morris water maze and the radial arm maze while minimizing the disadvantages.

Submitted to: Neurobiology of Aging
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 21, 2003
Publication Date: February 3, 2004
Citation: Shukitt Hale, B., Szprengiel, A., Joseph, J.A. 2004. Effect of age on the radial arm water maze - a test of spatial learning and memory. Neurobiology of Aging. 25(2):223-229.

Interpretive Summary: Aged rats show deficits in performance on memory tasks, particularly those that use spatial learning. In this study, we measured memory in young (6 mo) and old (21 mo) male F344 rats in a relatively new task, the 8-arm radial water maze (RAWM). Rats were placed in the RAWM in different start arms with the platform in the same arm for 3 days (5 trials/day); the goal arm was changed on day 4. It took the old rats longer to find the hidden platform on the day 4, demonstrating spatial impairment in the aged rats. Old rats also made significantly more errors, both long-term and short-term memory errors, than young rats on all days. It is likely that the old rats used non-spatial strategies to solve the task, and therefore were impaired in learning a new platform location. The RAWM is proved to be a reliable, sensitive, and powerful additional test to assess age-related spatial learning and memory deficits, combining the advantages of other memory tests, such as the Morris water maze and the radial arm maze while minimizing the disadvantages.

Technical Abstract: Aged rats show decrements in performance on cognitive tasks that require the use of spatial learning and memory, and these alterations appear to occur primarily in secondary memory systems. We used the 8-arm radial water maze (RAWM), which can assess both reference and working memory errors simultaneously, to measure spatial learning as a function of age in young (6 mo) and old (21 mo) male F344 rats. Rats were placed in the RAWM in different start arms with the same goal arm for 3 days (5 trials/day); the goal arm was changed on day 4. Old rats demonstrated spatial learning and memory impairment as evidenced by increased latencies to find the hidden platform when it was moved on the reversal day. Old rats made significantly more errors, both reference and working memory errors, than young rats on all days. This ability to assess number of errors makes the RAWM an especially sensitive and powerful task to assess age-related deficits in cognitive performance because other tests only measure latency during acquisition of the task. It is likely that the old rats utilized non-spatial strategies to solve the task since they showed a lack of spatial preference, and therefore were impaired in learning a new platform location. The RAWM is a reliable, sensitive, and powerful additional test to assess age-related spatial learning and memory deficits, combining the advantages of the Morris water maze and the radial arm maze while minimizing the disadvantages.

Last Modified: 11/22/2014
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