Recent evidence suggests that astrocytes convert glucose to lactate, which is released from the astrocytes and supports learning and memory. This report takes a multiple memory perspective to test the role of astrocytes in cognition using real-time lactate measurements during learning and memory. Extracellular lactate levels in the hippocampus or striatum were determined with lactate biosensors while rats were learning place (hippocampus-sensitive) or response (striatum-sensitive) versions of T-mazes. In the first experiment, rats were trained on the place and response tasks to locate a food reward. Extracellular lactate levels in the hippocampus increased beyond those of feeding controls during place training but not during response training. However, striatal lactate levels did not increase beyond those of controls when rats were trained on either the place or the response version of the maze. Because food ingestion itself increased blood glucose and brain lactate levels, the contribution of feeding may have confounded the brain lactate measures. Therefore, we conducted a second similar experiment using water as the reward. A very different pattern of lactate responses to training emerged when water was used as the task reward. First, provision of water itself did not result in large increases in either brain or blood lactate levels. Moreover, extracellular lactate levels increased in the striatum during response but not place learning, whereas extracellular lactate levels in the hippocampus did not differ across tasks. The findings from the two experiments suggest that the relative engagement of the hippocampus and striatum dissociates not only by task but also by reward type. The divergent lactate responses of the hippocampus and striatum in place and response tasks under different reward conditions may reflect ethological constraints tied to foraging for food and water.
Keywords: Astrocytes; Lactate; Multiple memory systems; Place learning; Response learning.
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