Age-related deficits as working memory load increases: Relationships with growth factors

Heather A. Bimonte, Matthew E. Nelson, Ann Charlotte E. Granholm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Scopus citations


Young and aged female rats were tested on a water radial-arm maze designed to measure performance as working memory load increased, followed by brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), nerve growth factor (NGF), and neurotrophin 3 (NT3) protein assessments in hippocampus and frontal cortex. Aged rats showed deficiencies in both working and reference memory. There were also profound age-related working memory load effects. Aged rats made more errors as working memory load increased and showed learning only during early trials when memory load was low, while young rats exhibited learning over all trials. Neurotrophin assessment showed that frontal cortex NGF and BDNF levels were positively, and hippocampal NT3 negatively, correlated with number of errors made during specific trials in aged animals. Comparison to untested rats showed that testing increased NT3, but not BDNF or NGF, protein levels in both age groups. Findings suggest that young rats learn to handle a higher working memory load as testing progresses, while aged rats do not, and that frontal cortex and hippocampal neurotrophin levels may relate to working memory proficiency in aged female rats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-48
Number of pages12
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Female
  • Neurotrophin
  • Radial-arm maze
  • Reference memory
  • Water escape
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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