Sex and strategy use matters for pattern separation, adult neurogenesis and immediate early gene expression in the hippocampus Yagi, Shunya; Chow, Carmen; Lieblich, Stephanie E.; Galea, Liisa A. M.
Adult neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus (DG) plays a crucial role for pattern separation and there are sex differences in the regulation of neurogenesis. Although sex differences, favoring males, in spatial navigation have been reported, it is not known whether there are sex differences in pattern separation. The current study was designed to determine whether there are sex differences in the ability for separating similar or distinct patterns, learning strategy choice, adult neurogenesis and immediate early gene (IEG) expression in the DG in response to pattern separation training. Male and female Sprague-Dawley rats received a single injection of the DNA synthesis marker, bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) and were tested for the ability of separating spatial patterns in a spatial pattern separation version of delayed nonmatching to place task using the 8-arm radial arm maze. Twenty eight days following BrdU injection, rats received a probe trial to determine whether they were idiothetic or spatial strategy users. We found that male spatial strategy users outperformed female spatial strategy users only when separating similar, but not distinct, patterns. Furthermore male spatial strategy users had greater neurogenesis in response to pattern separation training than all other groups. Interestingly neurogenesis was positively correlated with performance on similar pattern trials during pattern separation in female spatial strategy users but negatively correlated with performance in male idiothetic strategy users. These results suggest that the survival of new neurons may play an important positive role for pattern separation of similar patterns in females. Furthermore, we found sex and strategy differences in IEG expression in the CA1 and CA3 regions in response to pattern separation. These findings emphasize the importance of studying biological sex on hippocampal function and neural plasticity.
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