Rats with elevated genetic risk for metabolic syndrome exhibit cognitive deficiencies when young Article (Faculty180)

cited authors

  • Wikgren, Jan; Nokia, Miriam S; Mäkinen, Elina; Koch, Lauren G; Britton, Steven L; Kainulainen, Heikki; Lensu, Sanna


  • Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a known risk factor for cognitive decline. Using polygenic rat models selectively bred for high and low intrinsic exercise capacity and simultaneously modelling as low and high innate risk factor for MetS respectively, we have previously shown that adult animals with lower exercise capacity/higher MetS risk perform poorly in tasks requiring flexible cognition. However, it is not known whether these deficits in cognition are present already at young age. Also, it is unclear whether the high risk genome is related also to lower-level cognition, such as sensory gating measured as prepulse inhibition. In this study, young and adult (5-8 weeks and ~9 months) rats selectively bred for 36 generations as High-Capacity Runners (HCR) or Low-Capacity Runners (LCR) were tested for behavior in an open field task, modulation of startle reflex, and spatial learning in a T-maze. HCR rats were more active in the open field than LCR rats independent of age. Responses to the startle stimulus habituated to the same extent in LCR compared to HCR rats when young, but as adults, stronger habituation was seen in the HCR animals. The prepulse inhibition of startle response was equally strong in young HCR and LCR animals but the effect was shorter lasting in HCR animals. In T-maze, adult HCR animals unexpectedly showed attenuated learning, but we interpret this finding to stem from differences in motivation rather than learning ability. Overall, in the LCR rats with the risk genome for poor aerobic fitness and MetS, indications of compromised cognitive function are present already at a young age.

publication date

  • 2021

published in

start page

  • 113417


  • 236