Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats: A Potential Model to Identify Drugs for Treatment of Learning Disorders

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Spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) of 3 to 12 months of age learned and retrieved less information than normotensive Wistar-Kyoto rats (WKY), although no difference was found with animals from 18 and 24 months of age. The combined influence of hypertension and aging had an additive detrimental effect on cognitive functions. Notwithstanding these deficiencies in learning and memory, SHR have seldom been used as a model in the screening of drugs with therapeutic potential for treatment of disorders of cognitive processes. Moreover, the calcium channel blocker nimodipine has beneficial effects on learning in both aged and hypertensive animals and humans. However, no attempt has been made to investigate whether nimodipine can reverse the additive deleterious effects of aging and hypertension in the same subject. We recently reported that deteriorated animals (middle-aged and/or hypertensive) chronically treated with nimodipine (via osmotic minipumps) exhibit higher learning scores. This information indicates that nimodipine can reverse the impairing effects of either aging or hypertension on learning; the presence of the two conditions, however, produces a severe impairment that can be partially reversed by this drug. Therefore, we propose that mature and middle-aged SHR represent a model for the screening of potentially useful drugs in the treatment of learning disorders, probably associated with hypertension and/or aging. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that the SHR is a genetic model and the appearance of neural disturbances could be a parallel genetic phenomenon and not necessarily or exclusively related to hypertension per se. (Hypertension. 1998;31:968-972.)

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