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Rats are known to display a temporary deficit in memory function 6 h after training on a learning task, a phenomenon known as the 'Kamin effect'. Later studies showed that maximal retrieval recurs in 24 h intervals after a single training and implied the role of the circadian clock in the suppression of memory retrieval at non-24 h intervals. This study aimed to investigate this further by analysing retention deficits following passive avoidance training in the Syrian hamster. The availability of hamsters carrying the tau mutation was exploited to address the role of the circadian system in periodic retention deficits. It was expected that tau mutant hamsters with an endogenous circadian period of approximately 20 h would have a high retention score at 20 h after training. Surprisingly, deficits in retention were found at 12, 18, 24, and 36 h after training in wild-type hamsters with best performance at 30 h after training. Tau mutant hamsters had significant deficits in memory retention at 20, 24, and 30 h, and no clear periodicity in retention could be observed. Step-through latency scores for mutant hamsters were low at all times except training-testing intervals of 0.25 and 6 h. These results demonstrate the absence of clear memory deficit oscillations in both wild-type and mutant hamsters, and may suggest in particular a long-term memory deficit in tau mutant hamsters.

Affiliations: 1: Zoological Laboratory, University of Groningen, PO box 14, 9750 AA Haren, The Netherlands


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