In this study, the effects of a potentially lethal radiation exposure on the brain for long-term cognitive sequelae were investigated using Rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) adopted from other facilities after analysis of acute radiation response via the Centers for Medical Countermeasures against Radiation (CMCR) network. Fifty-nine animals were given the opportunity to participate in cognitive cage-side testing. The animals that received single-dose gamma irradiation were significantly less likely to engage in cognitive testing than the controls, suggesting that irradiated animals may have differences in cognitive ability. Five irradiated (6.75–8.05 Gy) and three naïve control animals self-selected, were extensively trained and administered a simple visual discrimination with reversal (SVD R) task 2–3 times per week for 11–18 months. Each session consisted of 30 trials in which the animals were required to choose the correct visual stimulus for a food reward. After the initial presentation, the stimulus that signaled the presence of food was twice reversed once the animal reached criterion (90% accuracy across four consecutive sessions). While the limited sample size precluded definitive statistical analysis, irradiated animals took longer to reach the criterion subsequent to reversal than did control animals, suggesting a relative deficiency in cognitive flexibility. These results provide preliminary data supporting the potential use of a nonhuman primate model to study radiation-induced, late-delayed cognitive deficits.
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Vol. 186 • No. 5