The present study was designed to determine potential associations between the brain damage induced by hypoxic-ischemic (HI) insult and spatial learning impairment in an eight-arm radial maze task. We first determined the pathological outcomes after 2, 5, 9, and 17 weeks of recovery following the HI insult. The results show that the brain damage progressed from 2 up to 17 weeks of recovery. To clarify the time course of the brain damage changes, we investigated the histological changes of the same individual with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) after 5, 9, and 57 weeks of recovery following the HI insult. The MRI changes were similar to the histological changes, and the brain damages were exacerbated in the contralateral hemisphere after 57 weeks of recovery following the HI insult. To investigate whether alteration in brain function was correlated with MRI and histological changes, the rats were made to find their way through an eight-arm radial maze was performed at either 7th or 16th weeks of recovery. According to the results, the spatial learning impairments of rats in the maze starting at 16 weeks of recovery were more severe than those at 7 weeks of recovery, indicating that the impairments were progressive and depended on the degree of brain damage. The results of the present study are the first demonstration that the evolutional and specific brain damage following the HI insult is slowly and progressively exacerbated to the contralateral hemisphere and rats who experience the HI are at risk for showing a late impairment of brain function.
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