Chronic impairments in spatial learning and memory in rats previously exposed to chlorpyrfos or diisopropylfluorophosphate

A. V. Terry, W. D. Beck, S. Warner, L. Vandenhuerk, Patrick Michael Callahan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


The acute toxicity of organophosphates (OPs) has been studied extensively; however, much less attention has been given to the subject of repeated exposures that are not associated with overt signs of toxicity (i.e., subthreshold exposures). The objective of this study was to determine if the protracted spatial learning impairments we have observed previously after repeated subthreshold exposures to the insecticide chlorpyrifos (CPF) or the alkylphosphate OP, diisopropylfluorophosphate (DFP) persisted for longer periods after exposure. Male Wistar rats (beginning at two months of age) were initially injected subcutaneously with CPF (10.0 or 18.0. mg/kg) or DFP (0.25 or 0.75. mg/kg) every other day for 30. days. After an extended OP-free washout period (behavioral testing begun 50. days after the last OP exposure), rats previously exposed to CPF, but not DFP, were impaired in a radial arm maze (RAM) win-shift task as well as a delayed non-match to position procedure. Later experiments (i.e., beginning 140. days after the last OP exposure) revealed impairments in the acquisition of a water maze hidden platform task associated with both OPs. However, only rats previously exposed to DFP were impaired in a second phase of testing when the platform location was changed (indicative of deficits of cognitive flexibility). These results indicate, therefore, that repeated, subthreshold exposures to CPF and DFP may lead to chronic deficits in spatial learning and memory (i.e., long after cholinesterase inhibition has abated) and that insecticide and alkylphosphate-based OPs may have differential effects depending on the cognitive domain evaluated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalNeurotoxicology and Teratology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Cholinesterase inhibitor
  • Chronic
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Flexibility
  • Organophosphate
  • Pesticide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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