Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

To explore the impact of reduced mastication and a sedentary lifestyle on spatial learning and memory in the aged mice, as well as on the morphology of astrocytes in the molecular layer of dentate gyrus (MolDG), different masticatory regimens were imposed. Control mice received a pellet-type hard diet, while the reduced masticatory activity group received a pellet diet followed by a powdered diet, and the masticatory rehabilitation group received a pellet diet, followed by powder diet and then a pellet again. To mimic sedentary or active lifestyles, mice were housed in an impoverished environment of standard cages or in an enriched environment. The Morris Water Maze (MWM) test showed that masticatory-deprived group, regardless of environment, was not able to learn and remember the hidden platform location, but masticatory rehabilitation combined with enriched environment recovered such disabilities. Microscopic three-dimensional reconstructions of 1,800 glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP)-immunolabeled astrocytes from the external third of the MolDG were generated using a stereological systematic and random sampling approach. Hierarchical cluster analysis allowed the characterization into two main groups of astrocytes with greater and lower morphological complexities, respectively, AST1 and AST2. When compared to compared to the hard diet group subjected to impoverished environment, deprived animals maintained in the same environment for 6 months showed remarkable shrinkage of astrocyte branches. However, the long-term environmental enrichment (18-month-old) applied to the deprived group reversed the shrinkage effect, with significant increase in the morphological complexity of AST1 and AST2, when in an impoverished or enriched environment. During housing under enriched environment, complexity of branches of AST1 and AST2 was reduced by the powder diet (pellet followed by powder regimes) in young but not in old mice, where it was reversed by pellet diet (pellet followed by powder and pellet regime again). The same was not true for mice housed under impoverished environment. Interestingly, we were unable to find any correlation between MWM data and astrocyte morphological changes. Our findings indicate that both young and aged mice subjected to environmental enrichment, and under normal or rehabilitated masticatory activity, preserve spatial learning and memory. Nonetheless, data suggest that an impoverished environment and reduced mastication synergize to aggravate age-related cognitive decline; however, the association with morphological diversity of AST1 and AST2 at the MolDG requires further investigation.

Original publication




Journal article


Front Neurosci

Publication Date





aging, astrocytes, enriched environment, masticatory activity, morphometry, spatial learning and memory