The effects of high helium pressure on the subsequent acquisition of spatial memory were studied in male rats. Thirty-two rats were exposed to 65 ATA helium-oxygen pressure for 4.2 days, decompressed (total time in chamber 5 days), and then tested in an eight-arm radial maze. Thirty-two control rats were exposed in the chamber to 1 ATA air. Each rat had 20 sessions in the maze (2 sessions/day for 10 days), and the number of correct (visiting an arm not previously visited to obtain the reward pellet) and incorrect choices (visiting a previously visited arm) were recorded. Statistical analysis showed that the rats exposed to 65 ATA performed significantly better than 1-ATA controls during the first 8 of 20 sessions. This effect was most pronounced in sessions 5-8. Results for sessions 9-20 showed that the pressure-treated rats still made more correct choices but to an extent that did not always reach statistical significance. Possible explanations include the pressure-treated rats performing better because of hunger after a lower food consumption at pressure. Alternatively, pressure itself may enhance proposed mechanisms of spatial memory such as long-term potentiation.
- Copyright © 1991 the American Physiological Society