Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 224, Issue 1, pp 125–139 | Cite as

Persistent impairments in hippocampal, dorsal striatal, and prefrontal cortical function following repeated photoperiod shifts in rats

  • Erin L. ZelinskiEmail author
  • Amanda V. Tyndall
  • Nancy S. Hong
  • Robert J. McDonald
Research Article


Cognitive impairments are observed when learned associations are being acquired or retrieved during a period of circadian disruption. However, the extent of the functional impacts on previously acquired associations following circadian rhythm re-entrainment is unknown. The impacts of repeated photoperiod shifts on learning and memory in male and female rats were examined. For these experiments, rats were trained on a spatial version of the Morris water task (MWT) and a visual discrimination task designed for the 8-arm radial maze. Following asymptotic performance on these tasks, rats experienced a repeating photoperiod shift procedure and were then re-entrained. Following circadian re-entrainment, retention of pre-photoperiod-shift-acquired associations was tested. In addition, an extra-dimensional set shift was performed using the 8-arm radial maze. Impaired retention of the MWT platform location was observed in photoperiod-shifted subjects relative to subjects with stable, unmanipulated photoperiods. Repeated photoperiod shifts negatively impacted retention in males and females compared with subjects with stable photoperiods. Retention and the ability to detect extra-dimensional shifts on the visual discrimination task were also impaired, though not consistently by sex or photoperiod condition. Running wheel availability was also included in the analyses to determine whether exercise influenced the effects of photoperiod shifting. The absence of a running wheel produced significant declines in memory retention on both MWT and the visual discrimination task, but only for male rats. The observed impairments indicate that multiple neural systems supporting different learning and memory functions are susceptible to circadian disruption, even if the association is acquired prior to rhythm fragmentation and tested following rhythm re-entrainment.


Photoperiod shifts Morris water task Differential reinforcement schedule Radial maze Male and female rats 



Dorsal striatum


Extra-dimensional set shift






Light-emitting diode


Morris water task


Prefrontal cortex


Suprachiasmatic nucleus




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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erin L. Zelinski
    • 1
    Email author
  • Amanda V. Tyndall
    • 2
  • Nancy S. Hong
    • 1
  • Robert J. McDonald
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Neuroscience, Canadian Centre for Behavioural NeuroscienceUniversity of LethbridgeLethbridgeCanada
  2. 2.Department of Neuroscience, Faculty of Medicine, Hotchkiss Brain InstituteUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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