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Eur J Neurosci. 2004 Feb;19(3):705-12.

Dissociation of function between the dorsal and the ventral hippocampus in spatial learning abilities of the rat: a within-subject, within-task comparison of reference and working spatial memory.

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Behavioural Neurobiology Laboratory, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Schorenstrasse 16, CH-8603 Schwerzenbach, Switzerland.


Lesions restricted to the dorsal, but not the ventral, hippocampus severely impair the formation of spatial memory. This dissociation was first demonstrated using the water maze task. The present study investigated whether the dorsal and the ventral hippocampus are involved differentially in spatial reference and spatial working memory using a four-baited/four-unbaited version of the eight-arm radial maze task. This test allows the concurrent evaluation of reference and working memory with respect to the same set of spatial cues, and thereby enables a within-subjects within-task comparison between the two forms of memory functions. Rats with N-methyl-d-aspartic acid-induced excitotoxic lesions of the dorsal hippocampus, ventral hippocampus or both were compared with sham and unoperated controls. We showed that dorsal lesions were as effective as complete lesions in severely disrupting both reference and working spatial memory, whereas rats with ventral lesions performed at a level comparable with controls. These results lend further support to the existence of a functional dissociation between the dorsal and the ventral hippocampus, with the former being preferentially involved in spatial learning.

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