This work was aimed at analyzing the effects of perinatal choline supplementation on the development of spatial abilities and upon adult performance. Choline supplementation (3.5 g/L in 0.02 M saccharin solution in tap water) was maintained for two weeks before birth and for up to four weeks postnatally. Additional supplementation was maintained from the fifth to the tenth week postnatally. Spatial-learning capacities were studied at the ages of 26, 65, or 80 days in a circular swimming pool (Morris place-navigation task) and at the age of 7 months in a homing arena. Treatment effects were found in both juvenile and adult rats, and thus persisted for several months after the cessation of the supplementation. The choline supplementation improved the performance in the water maze in a very selective manner. The most consistent effect was a reduction in the latency to reach a cued platform at a fixed position in space, whereas the improvement was limited when the platform was invisible and had to be located relative to distant cues only. However, after removal of the goal cue, the treated rats showed a better retention of the training position than did the control rats. A similar effect was observed in a dry-land task conducted in the homing arena. The choline supplementation thus induced a significant improvement of spatial memory. But since this effect was only evident following training with a salient cue, it might be regarded as an indirect effect promoted by an optimal combination of cue guidance with a place strategy.
Aigner, T. G., Walker, D. L., & Mishkin, M. (1991). Comparison of the effects of scopolamine administered before and after acquisition in a test of visual recognition memory in monkeys. Behavioral & Neural Biology, 55, 61–67.
Brandner, C., Berchtold, N., & Schenk, F. (1994). Cholinergic and noradrenergic modulation in spatial learning and/or attention. European Journal of Neuroscience, 7, 117.
Buhot, M.-C., Soffié, M., & Poucet, B. (1989). Scopolamine affects the cognitive processes involved in selective object exploration more than locomotor activity. Psychobiology, 17, 409–417.
Callahan, M. J., Kinsora, J. J., Harbaugh, R. E., Reeder, T. M., & Davis, R. E. (1993). Continuous infusion of scopolamine impairs sustained attention of rhesus monkeys. Neurobiology of Aging, 14, 147–151.
Chevalley, A.-F., & Schenk, F. (1987). Immature processes of spatial learning in hooded rats. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts, 13, 184.
Dallal, N. L., Meck, W. H., & Williams, C. L. (1992). Selective developmental acceleration of relational cue navigation and reduction of age-related impairments in spatial processing by prenatal supplementation with choline. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts, 18, 147.
Decker, M. W., Majchrzak, M. J., & Anderson, D. J. (1992). Effects of nicotine on spatial memory deficits in rats with septal lesions. Brain Research, 572, 281–285.
Decker, M. W., Radek, R. J., Majchrzak, M. J., & Anderson, D. J. (1992). Differential effects of medial septal lesions on spatial-memory tasks. Psychobiology, 20, 9–17.
Dickinson, A. (1980). Contemporary animal learning theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gorry, E., Loy, R., Blusztajn, J. K., Meck, W. H., & Williams, C. L. (1992). Gonadal steroids and choline interact during development to improve radial-arm maze performance and increase hippocampal NGF in adult rats. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts, 18, 147.
Hagan, J. J., Salamone, J. D., Simpson, J., Iversen, S. D., & Morris, R. G. M. (1988). Place navigation in rats is impaired by lesions of medial septum and diagonal band, but not nucleus basalis magnocellularis. Behavioural Brain Research, 27, 9–20.
Hagan, J. J., Tweedie, F., & Morris, R. G. M. (1986). Lack of task specificity and absence of posttraining effects of atropine on learning. Behavioral Neuroscience, 100, 483–493.
Jackson, D. A., Meck, W. H., Williams, C. L., & Blusztajn, J. K. (1992). Supplementation with choline in utero reduces brain choline acetyltransferase (CAT) in the rat. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts, 18, 147.
Jaffard, R., & Meunier, M. (1993). Role of the hippocampal formation in learning and memory. Hippocampus, 3, 203–218.
Loy, R., Heyer, D., Miller, J., & Linder, M. D. (1992). Sex differences in the effect of prenatal choline treatment on septal cell size and hippocampal NGF. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts, 18, 548.
Loy, R., Heyer, D., Williams, C. L., & Meck, W.H. (1991). Choline-induced spatial memory facilitation correlates with altered distribution and morphology of septal neurons. In T. C. Napier, P. W. Kalivas, & I. Hanin (Eds.), The basal forebrain (pp. 373–382). New York: Plenum.
McAlonan, G. M., Wilkinson, L. S., Robbins, T. W., & Everitt, B. J. (1995). The effects of AMPA-induced lesions of the septohippocampal cholinergic projection on aversive conditioning to explicit and contextual cues and spatial learning in the water maze. European Journal of Neuroscience, 7, 281–292.
McDonald, R. J., & White, N. M. (1993). A triple dissociation of memory systems: Hippocampus, amygdala, and dorsal striatum. Behavioral Neuroscience, 107, 3–22.
Meck, W. H., Smith, R. A., & Williams, C. L. (1989). Organizational changes in cholinergic activity and enhanced visuospatial memory as a function of choline administered prenatally or postnatally or both. Behavioral Neuroscience, 103, 1234–1241.
Meck, W. H., & Williams, C. L. (1992). Choline supplementation during prenatal development inoculates against the age-related decline in spatial memory of 24–26 month old rats. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts, 18, 147.
Morris, R. G. M. (1981). Spatial localization does not require the presence of local cues. Learning & Motivation, 12, 239–260.
Muir, J. L., Dunnett, S. B., Robbins, T. W., & Everitt, B. J. (1992). Attentional functions of the forebrain cholinergic systems: Effects of intraventricular hemicholinium. physostigmine, basal forebrain lesions and intracortical grafts on a multiple-choice serial reaction time task. Experimental Brain Research, 89, 611–622.
Schenk, F. (1985). Development of place navigation in rats from weaning to puberty. Behavioral & Neural Biology, 43, 69–85.
Schenk, F. (1989). A homing procedure for studying spatial memory in immature and adult rodents. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 26, 249–258.
Schenk, F., Contant, B., & Werffeli, P. (1990). Intrahippocampal cholinergic grafts in aged rats compensate impairments in a radial maze and in a place learning task. Experimental Brain Research, 82, 641–650.
Schenk, F., & Gafner, M. (1993). Eine akute Piracetambehandlung verbessert die Ortserkennung in jungen weiblichen Ratten. In P. Baumann (Ed.), Biologische Psychiatrie der Gegenwart (pp. 778–781). Vienna: Springer-Verlag.
Schenk, F., Grobéty, M.-C., Lavenex, P., & Lipp- H. P. (1995). Dissociation between basic components of spatial memory in rats. In E. Alleva, A. Fasolo, H-P. Lipp, L. Nadel, & L. Ricceri (Eds.), Behavioral brain research in naturalistic and semi-naturalistic settings: Possibilities and perspectives (pp. 277–300). Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Sinden, J. D., Hodges, H., & Gray, J. A. (1995). Neural transplant and recovery of cognitive function. Behavioural & Brain Sciences, 18, 10–35.
Snedecor, G. W., & Cochran, W. G. (1971). Statistical methods (6th ed.). Ames: Iowa State University Press.
Suzuki, S., Augerinos, G., & Black, A. H. (1980). Stimulus control of spatial behavior on the eight-arm maze in rats. Learning & Motivation, 11, 1–18.
Tees, R. C., & Johnston, J. L. (1992). Effect of pre- and/or postnatal choline supplementation on working and reference memory (spatial and nonspatial) and open field behavior in the rat. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts, 18, 548.
Whishaw, I. Q. (1989). Dissociating performance and learning deficits on spatial navigation tasks in rats subjected to cholinergic muscarinic blockade. Brain Research Bulletin, 23, 347–358.
Whishaw, I. Q., & Petrie, B. F. (1988). Cholinergic blockade in the rat impairs strategy selection but not learning and retention of nonspatial visual dicrimination problems in a swimming pool. Behavioral Neuroscience, 120, 662–677.
Whishaw, I. Q., & Tomie, J.-A. (1987). Cholinergic receptor blockade produces impairments in a sensorimotor subsystem for place navigation in the rat: Evidence from sensory, motor, and acquisition tests in a swimming pool. Behavioral Neuroscience, 101, 603–616.
This research was supported by Grant 31.30068.90 from the Fonds National Suisse de la Recherche Scientifique. We are grateful to M. Gafner for assistance with animal training. We thank Hoffmann La Roche (Basel) for providing us with female breeders of the PVG strain.
About this article
Cite this article
Schenk, F., Brandner, C. Indirect effects of peri- and postnatal choline treatment on place-learning abilities in rat. Psychobiology 23, 302–313 (1995). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03333077