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Presented at 10th Annual Jefferson PostDoctoral Research Symposium at Thomas Jefferson University.



Exposure to low levels of lead (Pb) impairs a variety of cognitive processes. Although children exposed to Pb developmentally present with a variety of cognitive impairments that include deficits in learning, memory, language, and executive functioning, experimental work on Pb toxicity in rats has focused mostly on learning and memory deficits and less on executive functions. However, detrimental effects on executive functioning could lead to or even underlie a variety of other cognitive problems attributed to Pb exposure. In this study, we examined the ability of Long Evans rats (control and Pb-exposed: 150ppm Pb-acetate in food given perinatally (gestation through weaning) or early postnatally (EPN, birth through weaning)) to acquire and perform an attention set shifting test (ASST) that requires animals to locate a food reward based on discriminating between digging materials and odors. The task consisted of simple (SD) and compound (CD) discriminations and reversals and intra-dimensional (ID) and extra-dimensional (ED) shifts followed by reversals.