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Learn Mem. 2008 Mar 27;15(4):214-21. doi: 10.1101/lm.788008. Print 2008 Apr.

Retrograde amnesia for visual memories after hippocampal damage in rats.

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Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alberta T1K 3M4, Canada.


It is generally believed that the hippocampus is not required for simple discrimination learning. However, a small number of studies have shown that hippocampus damage impairs retention of a previously learned visual discrimination task. We propose that, although simple discrimination learning may proceed in the absence of the hippocampus, it plays an important role in this type of learning when it is intact. In order to test the role of the hippocampus in simple discrimination learning, we performed a series of experiments utilizing a two-choice picture discrimination task. Our experiments confirm that rats readily learn simple two-choice picture discriminations after hippocampus damage. However, if such discriminations are first learned while the hippocampus is intact, subsequent hippocampus damage causes severe retrograde amnesia for the discriminations. Furthermore, retrograde amnesia for simple picture discriminations was equally severe when the interval between training and damage was 1 d or 60 d; remote picture memories are not spared. Similarly, the rule or schema underlying a recently or remotely acquired picture discrimination learning set was lost after hippocampus damage. The severity of retrograde amnesia for simple picture discriminations is negatively correlated with the volume of spared hippocampus tissue. Thus, the hippocampus plays an essential role in long-term memories supporting simple picture discriminations.

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