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Spatial learning and memory is preserved in rats after early development in a microgravity environmentThis study evaluated the cognitive mapping abilities of rats that spent part of their early development in a microgravity environment. Litters of male and female Sprague-Dawley rat pups were launched into space aboard the National Aeronautics and Space Administration space shuttle Columbia on postnatal day 8 or 14 and remained in space for 16 days. These animals were designated as FLT groups. Two age-matched control groups remained on Earth: those in standard vivarium housing (VIV) and those in housing identical to that aboard the shuttle (AGC). On return to Earth, animals were tested in three different tasks that measure spatial learning ability, the Morris water maze (MWM), and a modified version of the radial arm maze (RAM). Animals were also tested in an open field apparatus to measure general activity and exploratory activity. Performance and search strategies were evaluated in each of these tasks using an automated tracking system. Despite the dramatic differences in early experience, there were remarkably few differences between the FLT groups and their Earth-bound controls in these tasks. FLT animals learned the MWM and RAM as quickly as did controls. Evaluation of search patterns suggested subtle differences in patterns of exploration and in the strategies used to solve the tasks during the first few days of testing, but these differences normalized rapidly. Together, these data suggest that development in an environment without gravity has minimal long-term impact on spatial learning and memory abilities. Any differences due to development in microgravity are quickly reversed after return to earth normal gravity.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
External Source(s)
Temple, Meredith D. (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health Bethesda, Maryland 20892-9525, United States)
Kosik, Kenneth S.
Steward, Oswald
Date Acquired
August 21, 2013
Publication Date
September 1, 2002
Publication Information
Publication: Neurobiology of learning and memory
Volume: 78
Issue: 2
ISSN: 1074-7427
Subject Category
Life Sciences (General)
Distribution Limits
NASA Discipline Neuroscience
Non-NASA Center
short duration
NASA Experiment Number 9301123
STS-90 Shuttle Project
Flight Experiment