Intermittent hypoxia during development induces long-term alterations in spatial working memory, monoamines, and dendritic branching in rat frontal cortex

Pediatr Res. 2005 Sep;58(3):594-9. doi: 10.1203/01.pdr.0000176915.19287.e2.


Exposure to intermittent hypoxia (IH), such as occurs in sleep-disordered breathing, is associated with increased apoptosis in vulnerable brain regions as well as with spatial reference memory deficits in adult and developing rats. The latter are more susceptible to IH, suggesting that early exposure to IH may have long-term consequences. Rats were exposed to 14 d of room air (RA) or IH starting at postnatal d 10. Working memory was then assessed in the water maze at 4 mo of age using a delayed matching to place task in which the rats were required to locate a submerged platform hidden in a novel location on the first trial (T1 or acquisition trial), and then remember that position after a delay (T2 or test trial). Mean escape latencies and swim distances were derived and the savings (T1-T2) were used as a measure of working memory. Male but not female rats exposed to IH showed working memory deficits at both a 10- and 120-min delay (for both latency and pathlength). Additionally, Sholl analysis of Golgi-stained neurons revealed decreased dendritic branching in the frontal cortex, but not the hippocampus, of male rats exposed to IH. Norepinephrine concentrations, dopamine turnover, and tyrosine hydroxylase activity were increased similarly in males and females. However, increased dopamine concentrations were present only in the frontal cortex of female rats. In conclusion, exposure to IH during a critical developmental period is associated with long-term alterations in frontal cortical dopaminergic pathways that may underlie gender differences in neurobehavioral deficits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biogenic Monoamines / metabolism*
  • Dendrites / pathology*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Hypoxia, Brain / metabolism*
  • Hypoxia, Brain / pathology
  • Hypoxia, Brain / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism


  • Biogenic Monoamines
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase