Changes in anatomical or functional connectivity during normal aging are thought to contribute to cognitive alterations over the lifespan. Neural network theories predict that synaptic loss in an aging brain could place the organism near the point of dysfunction in the nonlinear curve defining neural compromise versus performance. The present experiments examined whether aged rats are closer to this point of behavioral dysfunction by reversibly inactivating one or both hippocampal hemispheres. As expected, bilateral tetracaine inactivation of the hippocampus disrupted spatial memory in both age groups. Unilateral left hippocampal inactivation significantly increased errors only in aged rats; however, unilateral inactivation of the right hippocampus had no effect. The present outcome could reflect more extensive synaptic dysfunction in the aged right hippocampus or a greater involvement of the left hippocampus in spatial working memory problems.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Behavioral Neuroscience