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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 1996 Nov;66(3):305-23.

Dissociation of hippocampal and striatal contributions to spatial navigation in the water maze.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Towson State University, Maryland 21204, USA.


Two experiments were conducted to compare the effects of fornix/fimbria and caudate-putamen lesions in Long-Evans hooded rats (Rattus norvegicus) trained on two water maze tasks that differed in the type of spatial localization required for optimum solution. In Experiment 1, the lesioned rats and surgical controls were trained on the standard place task in the water maze (Morris, 1981) and given two postacquisition tests (a platform removal probe and platform relocation test). In Experiment 2, rats with similar lesions and control rats were trained on a modified cue navigation task. Fornix/fimbria lesions impaired a late stage of place task acquisition but did not impair acquisition of the cue task. Caudate-putamen lesions resulted in a severe place acquisition impairment and a transient cue acquisition impairment, both of which were characterized by an initial tendency to swim near the wall of the pool. Post-hoc analyses of the direction and angles of departure from the start points suggested that rats with fornix/fimbria lesions used non-allocentric spatial strategies to solve the place task. These rats also demonstrated a significantly weakened spatial bias for the former training quadrant on the platform removal probe and reduced flexibility in navigating to a novel platform location on the platform relocation test. In contrast, rats with caudate-putamen lesions showed a significant spatial bias for the former training quadrant but failed to cross the exact location within the quadrant where the platform was formerly positioned. The results suggest that the hippocampus mediates the allocentric spatial component of the water maze place task while the dorsomedial striatum may play an important role in the acquisition of the procedural aspects of both place and cue versions of the task.

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