Age-related spatial reference and working memory deficits assessed in the water maze

Karyn M. Frick, Mark G. Baxter, Alicja L. Markowska, David S. Olton, Donald L. Price

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

271 Scopus citations


Aged rats have spatial memory deficits relative to young rats. The extent of these deficits in intermediate-aged rats is not well established. The present study examined the pattern of age-related changes in spatial reference and working memory in four ages of Fischer-344 rats. Place discrimination (PD) in the Morris water maze measured spatial reference memory. Repeated acquisition (RA), a discrimination in which the escape platform location varied from session to session, measured spatial working memory. Fischer-344 rats, 4 months, 11 months, 17 months, and 24 months of age, were tested. Compared to 4-month-olds, 24-month-olds were significantly impaired on all six PD measures of performance, 17 months were significantly impaired on five PD measures, and 11 months were significantly impaired on only one PD measure. Only 24-month-olds had a significant working memory impairment in RA relative to 4 months. Reference and working memory measures were distinct as assessed by a principal components analysis. The results indicate a nonlinear age-related spatial memory decline in Fischer-344 rats from 4 to 24 months of age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-160
Number of pages12
JournalNeurobiology of aging
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Principal components analysis
  • Reference memory
  • Spatial memory
  • Variable-interval probe trial
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Aging
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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