The present study explored the effects of infantile stimulation (i.e., neonatal handling or NH) on the performance of 18-month-old Roman high-avoidance (RHA/Verh) and low-avoidance (RLA/Verh) rats in a swimming pool matching-to-place (SPMP) test. This test (also called repeated acquisition and place learning-set paradigm) consists of administering pairs of consecutive trials in the Morris water maze. The difference between each "odd" and the consecutive "even" trial of a trial pair is considered to be a measure of working memory. The same rats were first tested for exploration and novelty-seeking in a hole-board test in the presence of novel objects, which showed that RHA/Verh rats were more explorative than their RLA/Verh counterparts, and that NH treatment augmented exploration in RLA/Verh rats, generally eliminating the genetically-based differences between the lines. RHA/Verh rats performed less efficiently than RLA/Verh rats in the SPMP test, and NH facilitated acquisition in the early stages of training in both rat lines, an effect that was presumably due to an improvement in the acquisition of spatial reference information. Performance during training also indicated that RHA/Verh rats showed less differentiated behavior between odd and even trials, indicating a relative working memory deficit at advanced ages in that rat line.
- Morris water maze, neonatal handling
- Roman high- and low-avoidance rats
- Spatial working memory