High fat/refined carbohydrate diet enhances the susceptibility to spatial learning deficits in rats exposed to intermittent hypoxia

Brain Res. 2006 May 23;1090(1):190-6. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2006.03.046. Epub 2006 May 3.


Background: Intermittent hypoxia during sleep (IH), as occurs in sleep disordered breathing (SDB), induces spatial learning deficits associated with regulation of transcription factors associated with learning and memory in the hippocampal CA1 region in rats. high fat refined carbohydrate diet (HF/RC) can induce similar deficits and associated changes in signaling pathways under normoxic conditions.

Methods: Sprague-Dawley adult male rats were fed either with (HF/RC) or low fat/complex carbohydrate diet (LF/CC) starting at post-natal day 30 for 90 days, and were then exposed for 14 days during light phase (12 h/day) to either normoxia (RA) or IH (21% and 10% O2 alternations every 90 s). Place-training reference memory task deficits were assessed in the Morris water maze. Total and ser-133 phosphorylated CREB were assessed in different brain regions by Western blotting and immunostaining in rats exposed to normoxia or IH and to LF/CC or HF/RC.

Results: Substantial decreases in CREB phosphorylation occurred in CA1 but not in motor cortex following either IH, HF/RC, and HF/RC + IH. Place-training reference memory task deficits were observed in rats exposed to IH and to HF/RC, and to a much greater extent in rats exposed to HF/RC + IH.

Conclusions: Nutritional factors alter recruitment of transcription factors, possibly via oxidative-related pathways, and modulate the vulnerability of the CA1 region of the hippocampus to the episodic hypoxia that characterizes SDB, thereby enhancing neurocognitive susceptibility in SDB patients.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Causality
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein / metabolism
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / adverse effects*
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Food, Formulated / adverse effects
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Hypoxia, Brain / complications
  • Hypoxia, Brain / metabolism*
  • Hypoxia, Brain / psychology
  • Learning Disabilities / etiology
  • Learning Disabilities / metabolism*
  • Learning Disabilities / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / physiology
  • Memory Disorders / etiology
  • Memory Disorders / metabolism*
  • Memory Disorders / physiopathology
  • Motor Cortex / metabolism
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Rats
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / complications
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / physiopathology
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcriptional Activation / physiology


  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fats
  • Transcription Factors