Delayed alternation performance in rats following recovery from early iron deficiency

Adam T. Schmidt, Erin K. Ladwig, Jane D. Wobken, William M. Grove, Michael K. Georgieff

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12 Scopus citations


Early iron deficiency (ID) is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in both developed and developing countries. This condition has been linked to perturbations in myelin formation, alterations of monoamine neurotransmitter systems particularly in the striatum, and deficits in energy metabolism particularly in the hippocampus (HP) and prefrontal cortex (PFC) in rats. Early ID has also been traced to long-term behavioral consequences in children in domains linked to these neuropathologies. The current experiment assesses formerly iron deficient (FID) adult rats on a delayed alternation (DA) task - a procedure thought to be sensitive to PFC dysfunction. Rat dams were started on an iron deficient chow at gestational day (G) 2 and maintained on this diet until postnatal day (P) 7; behavioral training began at P 65 when animals were iron replete. FID animals exhibited accelerated acquisition (p=0.002) and fewer errors (p=0.003) on the DA task compared to controls. These findings may reflect an imbalance between hippocampal and prefrontal modulation of this behavior most likely emanating from long-term hippocampal disinhibition by early ID that persists in spite of early iron treatment from P 7.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)503-508
Number of pages6
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a grant from the NIH to MKG-2R01 HD29421-14 and by an NSF Graduate Fellowship and Facilitation Award to ATS. We are also indebted to Kimberley Orsten, M.Sc. for her assistance in the preparation of this manuscript.


  • Delayed alternation
  • Hippocampus
  • Iron deficiency
  • Learning
  • Prefrontal cortex


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