Learning during middle age: a resistance to stress?

Neurobiol Aging. 2007 Nov;28(11):1783-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2006.07.012. Epub 2006 Sep 12.


Acute stressful experience enhances subsequent learning in males and impairs learning in females. These sex differences emerge soon after puberty in adulthood. Whether these opposite effects of stress on learning extend into older age is unknown. To examine this, young adult (2-3 months) and middle aged (17-18 months) Fischer 344 rats of both sexes were exposed to an acute stressor of brief tailshocks and trained 24 h later with classical eyeblink conditioning using a trace paradigm. Whereas stressful experience enhanced conditioning in adult males and impaired conditioning in adult females, it had no effect whatsoever on conditioning in the aging animals of either sex. There was no effect of aging itself on acquisition of the conditioned response, suggesting that trace conditioning is not necessarily compromised during this period of life. Together, these data indicate that associative learning in the aging animal is resistant to both the negative and positive consequences of stressful experience.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Eyelid / physiology
  • Female
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*