Decreased investigatory head scanning during exploration in learning-impaired, aged rats

Geeta Rao, Heekyung Lee, Michela Gallagher, James J. Knierim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


“Head scanning” is an investigatory behavior that has been linked to spatial exploration and the one-trial formation or strengthening of place cells in the hippocampus. Previous studies have demonstrated that a subset of aged rats with normal spatial learning performance show head scanning rates during a novel, local-global cue-mismatch manipulation that are similar to those of young rats. However, these aged rats demonstrated different patterns of expression of neural activity markers in brain regions associated with spatial learning, perhaps suggesting neural mechanisms that compensate for age-related brain changes. These prior studies did not investigate the head scanning properties of aged rats that had spatial learning impairments. The present study analyzed head scanning behavior in young, aged-unimpaired, and aged-impaired Long Evans rats. Aged-impaired rats performed the head scan behavior at a lower rate than the young rats. These results suggest that decreased attention to spatial landmarks may be a contributing factor to the spatial learning deficits shown by the aged-impaired rats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalNeurobiology of aging
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Exploration
  • Head scanning
  • Spatial impairment
  • Water maze

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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