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Behav Brain Res. 2006 Feb 15;167(1):183-95. Epub 2005 Oct 7.

The role of the hippocampus in object recognition in rats: examination of the influence of task parameters and lesion size.

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Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience, Division of Neuroscience and Centre for Neuroscience Research, 1 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ, UK.


Studies examining the effects of hippocampal lesions on object recognition memory in rats have produced conflicting results. The present study investigated how methodological differences and lesion size may have contributed to these discrepancies. In Experiment 1 we compared rats with complete, partial (septal) and sham hippocampal lesions on a spontaneous object recognition task, using a protocol previously reported to result in deficits following large hippocampal lesions . Rats with complete and partial hippocampal lesions were unimpaired, suggesting the hippocampus is not required for object recognition memory. However, rats with partial lesions showed relatively poor performance raising the possibility that floor effects masked a deficit on this group. In Experiment 2, we used a second spontaneous object recognition protocol similar to that used by the two other studies that have reported deficits following hippocampal lesions . Rats with complete hippocampal lesions were significantly impaired, whereas rats with partial lesions were unimpaired. However, the complete lesion group showed less object exploration during the sample phase. Thus, the apparent recognition memory deficit in Experiment 2 may be attributable to differential encoding. Together, these findings suggest that the hippocampus is not required for intact spontaneous object recognition memory. These findings suggest that levels of object exploration during the sample phase may be a critical issue, and raise the possibility that previous reports of object recognition deficits may be due to differences in object exploration rather than deficits in object recognition per se.

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