High sucrose diet does not impact spatial cognition in rats using advanced touchscreen technology

Briannah Miles, William Yang, Gabi Dezsi, Elysia Sokolenko, Flávia M.M. Gomes, Bianca Jupp, Rachel Hill, Matthew Hudson, Nigel C. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Introduction: Western diets, including those consisting of saturated fats, simple sugars and processed foods, is rising at an unprecedented rate. These lead to obesity and metabolic diseases, and possibly cognitive deficits. Exploring this, recent studies demonstrate marked impairment in spatial learning in rodents exposed to high-sugar diets. We utilised advanced touchscreen technology to assess several spatial and non-spatial components of cognition in rats chronically exposed to a high sucrose diet. Methods: Male Wistar rats received 70 ml of 10% sucrose solution each day, or control tap water, persisting for the experiment duration (total n = 32). After 5 weeks of diet, rats performed Pairwise Discrimination, Location Discrimination, or Progressive Ratio tasks on automated touchscreens, and performance compared between groups. Results: Sucrose rats consumed all the sugar solution provided to them, and had significantly increased caloric intake, compared to controls (p < 0.0001). However, in all tests, we found no significant difference in cognitive performance between Sucrose and Control treated rats. This included the number of trials for acquisition, and reversal, in Pairwise Discrimination, and number of trials required to complete Location Discrimination (p > 0.05 for all outcomes). No differences were observed in perseverative behaviour, motivation levels, or processing speed. Conclusion: Our study found no evidence to suggest that chronic consumption of sucrose impairs cognition, including both spatial and non-spatial learning tasks. These findings suggest that not all aspects of spatial cognition are negatively impacted by high sugar diet in rodents, and that particular use of touchscreen technology may probe different aspects of cognition than traditional tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113665
Number of pages10
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2022


  • Automated touchscreen
  • Cognition
  • High-sugar diet
  • Spatial learning
  • Visual discrimination

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