Neuroinflammation and cognitive function in aged mice following minor surgery

H. A. Rosczyk, N. L. Sparkman, R. W. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Following surgery, elderly patients often suffer from postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD) which can persist long after physical recovery. It is known that surgery-induced tissue damage activates the peripheral innate immune system resulting in the release of inflammatory mediators. Compared to adults, aged animals demonstrate increased neuroinflammation and microglial priming that leads to an exaggerated proinflammatory cytokine response following activation of the peripheral immune system. Therefore, we sought to determine if the immune response to surgical trauma results in increased neuroinflammation and cognitive impairment in aged mice. Adult and aged mice underwent minor abdominal surgery and 24 h later hippocampal cytokines were measured and working memory was assessed in a reversal learning version of the Morris water maze. While adult mice showed no signs of neuroinflammation following surgery, aged mice had significantly increased levels of IL-1β mRNA in the hippocampus. Minor surgery did not result in severe cognitive impairment although aged mice that underwent surgery did tend to perseverate in the old target during reversal testing suggesting reduced cognitive flexibility. Overall these results suggest that minor surgery leads to an exaggerated neuroinflammatory response in aged mice but does not result in significantly impaired performance in the Morris water maze.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)840-846
Number of pages7
JournalExperimental Gerontology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • Aging
  • Brain
  • Cytokines
  • Mice
  • POCD
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Aging
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Endocrinology
  • Cell Biology

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