Behavioural brain research

Memory loss in chemotherapy-treated rats is exacerbated in high-interference conditions and related to suppression of hippocampal neurogenesis.

PMID 25529185


Drugs used to treat cancer have neurotoxic effects that often produce memory loss and related cognitive deficits. In a test of the hypothesis that chemotherapy-induced cognitive impairment is related to a loss of inhibitory control, rats injected with a combination of methotrexate+5-fluouracil or equal volumes of saline, were administered a retroactive interference task in which memory for a learned discrimination problem was tested under conditions of high- and low-interference. The drugs had no effect on original learning or on re-learning the discrimination response when there was little interference, but the chemotherapy group was severely impaired in the hippocampus-sensitive, high-interference memory test. The impaired performance correlated significantly with reduced neurogenesis in the hippocampus. The failure to suppress interfering influences is consistent with a breakdown in pattern separation, a process that distinguishes and separates overlapping neural representations of experiences that have a high degree of similarity.