In aged rats, although learning and memory impairment is prominent, both the number of granular cells and the degree of neuronal progenitor proliferation in the hippocampus are known to be preserved. We examined the association between the survival of newly generated neurons in the hippocampus and the learning ability in aged rats. By using BrdU, a cell proliferation marker to determine neurogenesis and contextual fear conditioning to determine learning ability, we found that in aged rats, along with memory impairment, the survival of both the proliferated cells at baseline and those enhanced by contextual fear conditioning decreased remarkably. These results suggest that the integration of newly generated neurons into hippocampal circuitry is decreased with aging, this phenomenon may, in part, explain the decline in learning and memory in aged rats.
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