Experiments and observations on the behaviour and brain of the aging female mouse with special reference to dementia of the Alzheimer type
The objective of this research was to investigate the effects of normal aging and the additional effects of chronic exposure to two experimental diets, one enriched in aluminium, the other enriched in lecithin, on aspects of the behaviour and brain histology of the female mouse. The aluminium diet was administered in an attempt to develop a rodent model of Dementia of the Alzheimer Type (DAT). With normal aging, almost all assessed aspects of behaviour were found to be impaired. As regards cognition, selective impairments of single-trial passive avoidance and Morris place learning were observed. While all aspects of open-field behaviour were impaired, the degree of impairment was directly related to the degree of motoric complexity. Deficits were also observed on non-visual sensorimotor coordination tasks and in olfactory discrimination. Histologically, neuron loss, gliosis, vacuolation and congophilic angiopathy were observed in several of the brain regions/fibre tracts believed to contribute to the control of some of the assessed behaviours. The aluminium treatment had very selective effects on both behaviour and brain histology, inducing several features observed in DAT. Behaviourally, the treatment induced impaired spatial reference memory; reduced ambulation; disturbed olfactory function and induced the premature development of the senile pattern of swimming. Histologically, significant neuron loss and gliosis were observed in the hippocampus, entorhinal cortex, amygdala, medial septum, pyriform and pr-frontal cortex. In addition, the brain distribution of congophilic angiopathy was significantly increased by the treatment. The lecithin treatment had effects on both non-cognitive and cognitive aspects of behaviour. The effects of aging on open-field ambulation and rearing were partially ameliorated by the treatment. A similar effect was observed for single-trial passive avoidance performance. Age-dependent improvements in acquisition/retention were observed in 17-23 month mice and Morris place task performance was improved in 11 and 17 month mice. Histologically, a partial sparing of neurons in the cerebellum, hippocampus, entorhinal cortex and subiculum was observed.