Author(s): Machhor N, Balaji T, Raju TN
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Abstract In this study, we investigated the effect of dexamethasone on the long-term learning and memory functions in developing rats. In Sprague-Dawley rat pups, we administered a daily dose of dexamethasone (0.5 mg/kg/day) for three consecutive days in three groups of animals: the "ultra-early" group received steroids on postnatal days (PND) 1-3; the "early" group received the drug on PNDs 8-10, and the "late" group received the drug on PNDs 28-30. The control group was not given any medication. All animals underwent structured CNS examinations beginning on PND 15, and continued through PND 20. The pups were tested for spatial learning and memory functions using the Morris Water Maze (MWM) on PNDs 31 through 35, 45 through 49, and 59 through 63. They were also tested for reward-based learning and memory functions using Radial Arm Maze (RAM) on PNDs 70 through 72. We analyzed the effect of dexamethasone, postnatal age, and sex on neurological milestones, and learning and memory functions. We found that neurological examination findings were similar in all groups, as were the results of the reward-based learning using RAM. However, in the MWM, the total distance of swimming and the total time to find the hidden platform showed considerable difference among the groups. Although these functions improved with postnatal age, the female pups in all three steroid groups, and the male pups in the late-steroid group lagged significantly in learning and memory functions compared to the controls, and such lags were transient. However, the interaction terms between dexamethasone, age, and sex were also significant in MWM test results. Steroids administered postnatally may have transient, retarding effect on learning and memory functions, and that animal age and sex may modify such effects. Such lags are not global, but specific to the types of memory tests used, implicating different neural circuitries in the pathogenesis of such abnormalities. Although transient, if such adverse effects occur at critical phases during brain maturation, the implications for poor, long-term outcomes may be more significant. The mechanisms underlying such changes need to be explored.
This article was published in Life Sci
and referenced in Journal of Clinical & Experimental Pharmacology