Recovery of functional and structural age-related changes in the rat primary auditory cortex with operant training

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Aug 3;107(31):13900-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1007885107. Epub 2010 Jul 19.


Cognitive decline is a virtually universal aspect of the aging process. However, its neurophysiological basis remains poorly understood. We describe here more than 20 age-related cortical processing deficits in the primary auditory cortex of aging versus young rats that appear to be strongly contributed to by altered cortical inhibition. Consistent with these changes, we recorded in old rats a decrease in parvalbumin-labeled inhibitory cortical neurons. Furthermore, old rats were slower to master a simple behavior, with learning progressions marked by more false-positive responses. We then examined the effect of intensive auditory training on the primary auditory cortex in these aged rats by using an oddball discrimination task. Following training, we found a nearly complete reversal of the majority of previously observed functional and structural cortical impairments. These findings suggest that age-related cognitive decline is a tightly regulated plastic process, and demonstrate that most of these age-related changes are, by their fundamental nature, reversible.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Conditioning, Operant
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Male
  • Rats