Visuospatial function in the beagle dog: an early marker of cognitive decline in a model of human aging and dementia

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2006 Sep;86(2):197-204. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2006.02.005. Epub 2006 Apr 17.


Visuospatial learning and memory impairments are an early marker for age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease. Similar to humans, aged dogs show visuospatial learning and memory deficits (). One hundred and nine beagle dogs ranging between 0.25 and 11.99 years were tested on a visuospatial delayed non-matching to position (DNMP) task to better characterize the progression of visuospatial deficits in the dog. Age predicted 48.2% of the variability in learning the DNMP, with dogs ranging from 1 to 11.99 years generally making more errors with increasing age. By contrast, puppies (<1 year) likely were showing developmental deficits, possibly due to an immature prefrontal cortex. Mild visuospatial deficits were detected by 6 years, which precedes the typical onset of amyloid-beta (Abeta) accumulation in the dog brain by two years, and can serve as an early marker for cognitive decline in the dog. These findings suggest that (1) age-related changes in visuospatial function in the dog models that seen in humans, further validating the dog as a model for human aging and dementia; and (2) other mechanisms, such as oxidative stress, soluble Abeta oligomers or cholinergic deficits, are likely contributing to the early impairment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Dementia / complications
  • Dementia / diagnosis*
  • Dementia / physiopathology
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Spatial Behavior / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology


  • Biomarkers