Exercise has the power to ameliorate the outward symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) by rescuing hippocampal-dependent learning and memory. The goal of this research was to map out how exercise and sex impact behavioral learning in AD mouse models by looking outside of the traditional measurements in the Morris water maze (MWM), as they fail to describe the process of learning itself. I calculated heading error at maximum velocity, manually categorized search strategy in the MWM across trials, and determined flexibility in the probe trial for transgenic and wild-type mice who were exposed to exercise or control housing. Mice significantly switched from nonspatial to spatial learning strategies over time across all groups, however, only half were using a spatial strategy by the end of the fourth day of testing. There were no group effects on preference for spatial strategy, flexibility in the probe trial, or in decreasing heading error at maximum velocity, though targeted M/TG/CON and F/WT/EX groups displayed a preference for spatial strategy over time. Spatial strategies were superior to all nonspatial strategies in efficiency to the platform but one: thigmotaxis. This particular nonspatial strategy can save cognitive resources by allowing for efficient maze performance without the primary use of the hippocampus, challenging the common thought that the MWM is a hippocampal-dependent task. Moving forward, it is imperative to think more carefully about how the MWM is used to parse out learning, and to better understand advanced aspects of AD and how to overcome challenges to learning and memory.


Stavnezer, Amy Jo




Experimental Analysis of Behavior | Social and Behavioral Sciences


exercise, Alzheimer's Disease, learning, search strategy, Morris water maze

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis Exemplar



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