Incidental learning is impaired during early-life undernutrition

PJ Rogers, J Tonkiss, JL Smart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Rats were either well-nourished (control) or undernourished (PU) during the suckling and early postweaning periods (birth to 45 days), after which all animals were fed ad libitum. From 25 to 45 days half of the rats in each group were exposed continuously in their home cases to shape stimuli (triangle and circles). Half of each of these 4 groups were given “reminders” of the stimuli through exposure for 2 h every 10–12 days from 55 to 131 days. Beginning on day 132, ability to discriminate these same visual stimuli was tested using a nonappetitively motivated version of the Lashley jumping stand technique. Discrimination learning per se was unimpaired by previous undernutrition (control and PU rats not viewing the stimuli prior to training performed equally well). However, early-life exposure led to improved learning performance only in control rats; it had no effect on the performance of PU rats (significant exposure X nutrition interaction). These findings indicate that undernutrition interfered with early “incidental learning”, that is, learning about features of the environment which are not, at the time, biologically relevant. Finally, retention of the discrimination was assessed 9 weeks after the rats had attained criterion performance. There were no effects of nutrition or prior exposure on long-term memory.
Translated title of the contributionIncidental learning is impaired during early-life undernutrition
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113 - 124
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1986

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