Lewis Honors College Capstone Collection

Year of Publication



Arts and Sciences



Degree Name

Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience

First Capstone/Thesis Advisor

Dr. Jessica Santollo


Dehydration can negatively affect cognitive ability. Females, however,may be protected from impairments in cognitive performance associated with dehydration due to the influence estrogens have on fluid balance and cognition. Previous work in our lab demonstrated that water deprivation impaired performance in a novel object recognition task in females during times of low, but not high,estrogen levels, suggesting that estrogens protect memory recall during dehydration. However, rats in this experiment were only dehydrated in the testing phase. Whether dehydration during training impairs task performance is unclear.We, therefore, tested the hypothesis that dehydration during training impairs performance in a recognition task, but this effect will be mitigated in females with high estrogen levels. Male, diestrous (low estrogens) female, and proestrous/estrous (high estrogens) female rats were tested with a novel object recognition task.Twenty-four hours after a habituation trial, there was a training trial where rats were exposed to two identical objects in an open-field box. Subjects were trained in either a euhydrated state or in a 24-hour water deprived state. Immediately after training, water bottles were reintroduced. After 4 hours, animals underwent a testing trial where they were exposed to one of the original objects and a novel object and were allowed to investigate for 3 minutes. Females had higher activity levels than males (p<0.05), but there was no difference in activity between hydration states. Euhydrated rats spent more time exploring the novel object than the original object (p<0.05). Dehydrated diestrous females spent more time exploring the novel object, compared to the original object(p<0.05). Males and proestrous/estrous females showed no increase in time exploring the novel object than the original object. Estrogens did not appear to have a protective effect in female rats; in fact, high estrogen females and males were impaired after dehydration, while low estrogen females did not show any impairment after dehydration. This is opposite to what we predicted and suggests that males are cognitively impaired by dehydration and that in certain paradigms estrogens can enhance dehydration-induced cognitive impairments.

Included in

Life Sciences Commons