Adverse Effect of the Combination of Hypothyroidism and Chronic Psychosocial Stress on Hippocampus-Dependent Memory in Rats

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Psychosocial stress, Hypothyroidism, Hippocampal-dependent memory, Radial arm water maze

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Both hypothyroidism and stress interfere with cognitive function in patients. This study examined the effect of hypothyroidism and stress on hippocampus-dependent learning and memory in rats using the novel radial arm water maze (RAWM), which measures spatial working memory. Hypothyroidism was accomplished by thyroidectomy and 2 weeks later a form of intruder stress was used as the chronic psychosocial stressor. After 4–6 weeks of stress, rats were trained to learn (during the acquisition phase; four trials) and then remember (during two memory test trials occurring 15 and 120 min after the acquisition phase) the within-day location of a hidden escape platform, which was in different arm every day. The number of errors (entry into arms other than the platform arm) was noted. Within-day learning of the platform location was largely unaffected by the experimental manipulations, indicating that rats in all groups were equally capable of finding the platform to escape from the water with similar numbers of errors (P>0.05). The number of days a rat took to reach a criterion (DTC; a maximum of one error in three consecutive days) indicated that chronic stress or hypothyroidism, alone, resulted in a mild impairment of spatial memory, and the combination of chronic stress and hypothyroidism resulted in a more severe and long-lasting memory impairment. The data indicated that the combination of stress and hypothyroidism produced more deleterious effects on hippocampal function than either chronic stress or hypothyroidism alone.

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Behavioural Brain Research, v. 155, issue 1, p. 77-84