Analysis of learning deficits in aged rats on the W-track continuous spatial alternation task.

Adele J. Kapellusch, Adam W. Lester, Benjamin A. Schwartz, Anne C. Smith, Carol A. Barnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Young and aged animals were tested on a spatial alternation task that consisted of two interleaved components: (1) an "outbound" or alternation component (working memory) and (2) an "inbound" component, requiring the animal to remember to return to a central location in space (spatial memory). In the present study, aged rats made more outbound errors throughout testing, resulting in significantly more days to reach learning criterion, as compared to young rats. Furthermore, while all animals were able to learn the hippocampus-dependent inbound component of the task, most aged animals remained just above chance on the outbound component, even after extended testing days. Aged rats may be more impaired on the outbound part of the task because it requires cooperation of both the hippocampus and mPFC, each of which is compromised with age. In addition to presenting these results, we compare one commonly used analysis (repeated measures ANOVA) and two less common hierarchical modeling techniques (hierarchical generalized linear model and state-space random effects model) to determine the best method for comparing population learning over time. We found that hierarchical modeling is the most appropriate for this task and that a state-space model better captures the behavioral responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)512-519
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioral Neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Memory
  • hierarchical models
  • hippocampus
  • prefrontal cortex
  • state-space methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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