High-fat diets impair spatial learning in the radial-arm maze in mice

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2011 Jan;95(1):80-5. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2010.11.007. Epub 2010 Nov 17.


It has been suggested that hyperglycemia and insulin resistance triggered by energy-dense diets can account for hippocampal damage and deficits of cognitive behaviour. We wonder if the impairment of learning and memory processes detected in diet-induced obese (DIO) mice is linked to diet composition itself. With this purpose we have evaluated learning performance in mice undergoing a short-term high-fat (HF) treatment, which leads to a pre-obese state characterized by increased adiposity without significant changes of glucose and insulin plasma levels. C57BL/6J mice were fed either a HF (45 kcal% from fat) or control diet (10 kcal% from fat) during 8 weeks. Learning performance was evaluated by using the four-arm baited version of the eight-arm radial maze test (RAM). Mice were trained to learn the RAM protocol and then memory was tested at different time-points. Time spent to consume food placed in baited arms and errors committed to find them were measured in all sessions. DIO mice significantly spent more time in learning the task and made a greater number of errors than controls. Moreover, retention tests revealed that both working and total memory errors were also more numerous in DIO mice. The current results show that short-term DIO impairs spatial learning and suggest that impairment of hippocampal learning elicited by HF diets might be perceptible before metabolic alterations linked to obesity develop.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity / physiology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Fats*
  • Eating / physiology
  • Insulin / blood
  • Leptin / blood
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Space Perception / physiology
  • Spatial Behavior / physiology*


  • Dietary Fats
  • Insulin
  • Leptin