Author(s): Winocur G
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Abstract Two experiments are reported in which young and old rats, housed in an impoverished (IE), enriched (EE), or standard (SE), environment, were tested on a series of complex, blind-alley mazes. In Experiment 1, 3-months exposure to IE exacerbated age differences in maze performance, relative to the differences between young and old rats in EE and SE. Old rats in the EE and SE conditions did not differ from each other. In Experiment 2, rats were raised for an additional 3 months in either IE or EE before further maze testing. The main findings were that the maze performance of old rats, transferred from IE to EE, improved significantly, whereas the performance of old rats, transferred from SE or EE to IE, declined. These results indicated that the deleterious effects of an impoverished environment on learning and memory are, at least partly, reversible, and that experience in a stimulating environment can protect old rats from the adverse effects of relocation to a deprived environment. Taken together, the results highlight the impact of environmental influences on cognitive function in old age, and emphasize the need to consider nonbiological factors in understanding the process of cognitive aging.
This article was published in Neurobiol Aging
and referenced in Journal of Gerontology & Geriatric Research