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Physiol Behav. 2012 Feb 28;105(4):1014-20. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2011.11.021. Epub 2011 Nov 29.

The effects of biological sex and gonadal hormones on learning strategy in adult rats.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118, United States.

Abstract

When learning to navigate toward a goal in a spatial environment, rodents employ distinct learning strategies that are governed by specific regions of the brain. In the early stages of learning, adult male rats prefer a hippocampus-dependent place strategy over a striatum-dependent response strategy. Alternatively, female rats exhibit a preference for a place strategy only when circulating levels of estradiol are elevated. Notably, male rodents typically perform better than females on a variety of spatial learning tasks, which are mediated by the hippocampus. However, limited research has been done to determine if the previously reported male spatial advantage corresponds with a greater reliance on a place strategy, and, if the male preference for a place strategy is impacted by removal of testicular hormones. A dual-solution water T-maze task, which can be solved by adopting either a place or a response strategy, was employed to determine the effects of biological sex and hormonal status on learning strategy. In the first experiment, male rats made more correct arm choices than female rats during training and exhibited a bias for a place strategy on a probe trial. The results of the second experiment indicated that testicular hormones modulated arm choice accuracy during training, but not the preference for a place strategy. Together, these findings suggest that the previously reported male spatial advantage is associated with a greater reliance on a place strategy, and that only performance during the training phase of a dual-solution learning task is impacted by removal of testicular hormones.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

PMID:
22146478
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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