Adult neurogenesis reduction by a cytostatic treatment improves spatial reversal learning in rats

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Adult neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus adds a substantial number of new functional neurons to the hippocampus network in rodents. To date, however, the function of these new granule cells remains unclear. We conducted an experiment to assess the contribution of adult neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus to acquisition and reversal learning in a task that predominantly requires generalization of a rule. Young adult male Long-Evans rats were repeatedly administered either a cytostatic temozolomide or saline for a period of four weeks (3 injections per week). Post treatment, animals were injected with bromodeoxyuridine to quantify adult neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus. For behavioral assessment we used hippocampus-dependent active place avoidance with reversal in a Carousel maze. Animals first learned to avoid a 60° sector on the rotating arena. Afterwards, sector was relocated to the opposite side of the rotating arena (reversal). The administration of temozolomide significantly improved the reversal performance compared to saline-treated rats. Our results suggest a significant, level-dependent, improvement of reversal learning in animals with reduced adult neurogenesis in hippocampus.

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