Neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) null mice do not show a deficit in odour discrimination learning

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Polysialylated neural cell adhesion molecule (PSA-NCAM) is predominantly expressed during development where it regulates biological functions including axon targeting and neuronal precursor cell migration. Although dramatically down regulated after birth in most regions of the nervous system, PSA-NCAM remains highly expressed into adulthood in areas that have ongoing regeneration and plasticity such as in the olfactory bulb and hippocampus. Consequently, lack of PSA-NCAM in NCAM null mice results in distinct morphological changes to these areas. The functional correlates of these changes are not well defined although there have been reports that learning is impaired in NCAM null mice. In the present study, we assessed the ability of old and young NCAM null mice to learn an odour discrimination task. We tested male and female experimental and control animals of two different ages: 30–60 days and 12–15 months. During 4 days of training, NCAM null and C57BL/6J received trials where one odour (CS+) was paired with sugar while another odour (CS−) was not. In a subsequent preference test, conducted in the absence of sugar, all animals, regardless of strain or age, spent significantly more time digging in the CS+ odour than in the CS− odour. In addition, there was no significant difference in digging behaviour in the CS+ between the NCAM null and the control animals. These data indicate that deletion of the NCAM gene may change the morphology of the olfactory bulb but does not interfere with the ability to learn an odour discrimination task.

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