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Brain Res Bull. 1997;44(3):265-71.

Unilateral lesion of dorsal hippocampus enhances reinforcing lateral hypothalamic stimulation in the contralateral hemisphere.

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Institute of Physiologal Psychology, University of Düsseldorf, Germany.


Whereas convincing evidence exists for an important role of the hippocampus in mechanisms underlying memory and encoding of location in space, the contribution of the hippocampus to the system underlying central processes of reinforcement is less well established. Scattered data suggesting that hippocampal ablation increases the effectiveness of positive reinforcers have alternatively been interpretated in terms of general and unspecific behavioral disinhibition, which results in higher levels of activity and rates of responding. In the present experiment, 22 Wistar rats were either given a neurotoxic or a sham lesion in the CA1 region of the hippocampus, and the effect on lateral hypothalamic self-stimulation behavior was assessed. To control for nonspecific performance effects rates of lever pressing were assessed ipsi- and contralateral to the lesioned hemisphere as well as under condition of extinction (current set to zero). Following the neurotoxic lesion the animals displayed significant higher rates of self-stimulation at the electrode sites in the hypothalamus situated contralateral but not ipsilateral to the hemisphere with the lesion compared with controls. The increase in self-stimulation commenced on the third day postlesion and was maintained over the 8 days of testing. The lesion did not change the animals' behavior under extinction. Thus, the hippocampal lesion led to an amplification of rewarding lateral hypothalamic self-stimulation behavior, indicative of a lesion induced disinhibition of the brain's reinforcement system.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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