Rats were trained in six sessions to locate a submerged platform in a circular water maze. They were exposed to pulsed 2450-MHz microwaves (pulse width 2 micros, 500 128;pulses/s, average power density 2 mW/cm(2), average whole body specific absorption rate 1.2 W/kg) for 1 h in a circular waveguide system immediately before each training session. One hour after the last training session, they were tested in a probe trial during which the platform was removed and the time spent in the quadrant of the maze in which the platform had been located during the 1-min trial was scored. Three groups of animals, microwave-exposed, sham-exposed, and cage control, were studied. Microwave-exposed rats were slower than sham-exposed and cage control rats in learning to locate the platform. However, there was no significant difference in swim speed among the three groups of animals, indicating that the difference in learning was not due to a change in motor functions or motivation. During the probe trial, microwave-exposed animals spent significantly less time in the quadrant that had contained the platform, and their swim patterns were different from those of the sham-exposed and cage control animals. The latter observation indicates that microwave-exposed rats used a different strategy in learning the location of the platform. These results show that acute exposure to pulsed microwaves caused a deficit in spatial "reference" memory in the rat.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.