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AbstractThe objective of this study is to investigate the impacts of Methyl Mercury Chloride (MMC) on cognitive functions and ultrastructural changes of hippocampus in Sprague Dawley (SD) rats. Thirty healthy 20-day-old male SD rats weighing 30–40 g were randomly divided into three groups to receive daily injections. Two different dose levels were used: 4 mg/kg as high dose (H-MMC) and 2 mg/kg as low dose (L-MMC).The control group received 4 mg/kg saline solution (N-NaCl). After daily subcutaneous injection for 50 days, 6-day Morris water maze tests were used to assess the learning and memory functions of the rats. After a 5-day continuous training, spatial probe tests were conducted of times and paths crossing to the target quadrant on the 6th day. After the rats were euthanized, their hippocampus sections were stained with hematoxylin and eosin and analyzed under bothoptical microscope and electron microscope. The time H-MMC group spent in finding platform was significantly longer as compared toN-NaCl group on day 2 to day 5 and L-MMC group on day 4 to day 5. The number of crossing times of H-MMC group to the target quadrant was 0.63 ± 0.74, which is much lower than C-NaCl group (3.13 ± 1.56) with P value <0.05. No statistically significant difference in crossing times was found between L-MMC and C-NaCl groups. For H-MMC group, decreasing number of neurons and disorganized nerve cells were examined under light microscope. Swelling and dissolution of Golgi complex were examined under electron microscope, along with endoplasmic reticulum expansion and cytoplasmic edema. Mild cytoplasmic edema was found in L-MMC group. MMC can cause cognitive impairment in terms of learning and memory in SD rats. Additionally, it can also cause changes in the ultrastructure of neurons and morphological changes in the hippocampus, causing significant damage.