Studies show that iron deficient (ID) children are at risk for poor cognitive development. Research also shows that ID may impair the development of the skeletal motor abilities. The present study sought to determine if perinatal ID in rats impairs a motor learning task called eyeblink conditioning. This task used a hippocampus-dependent trace version or non-hippocampus-dependent delay version. Rats were placed on ID or control diets from gestational day (G) 12 to postnatal day (P) 12. Young rats (P32–29) subjected to perinatal ID showed severe impairments in trace eyeblink conditioning but only minor impairments in delay eyeblink conditioning. A young moderate ID group (ID from G12 to P2) was also impaired in trace eyeblink conditioning. The ID rats that became adults (P64–69) showed only minor impairments in trace eyeblink conditioning. Young ID rats showed no deficits in motoric ability on a separate rotorod learning test. This study suggests that perinatal ID impairs motoric learning by altering higher-order learning centers like the hippocampus more so than by altering the skeletal motor system.

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