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Behav Brain Res. 1997 Sep;87(2):223-32.

Assessing the magnitude of the allocentric spatial deficit associated with complete loss of the anterior thalamic nuclei in rats.

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  • 1School of Psychology, University of Wales, College of Cardiff, UK.


The behavioural effects of complete lesions of the anterior thalamic nuclei (ANT), the anterior thalamic nuclei plus the lateral dorsal nucleus (ANT + LD), and fornix (FX) were compared using a series of tests of spatial memory. ALl three lesion groups were found to have an equally severe and long-lasting impairment in the acquisition of a T-maze alternation task when compared with the control animals (COMB SHAM). In Experiment 2, the control animals were able to perform the alternation task when the test trial was started from a different location to the sample trial, so demonstrating that they were able to use allocentric cues in order to differentiate the most recently visited arm. In contrast, all the lesion groups performed close to chance level. In fact, for this condition the ANT / LD group was significantly worse than the FX group. In contrast, none of the lesion groups was impaired on an egocentric discrimination and subsequent reversal task (Experiment 3). The control animals came from two different control procedures, a surgical control sub-group (SHAM) and a group of animals that received injections of N-methyl-D-aspartic (NMDA) into the fornix (NMDA SHAM). There were no differences in the performance levels of the NMDA SHAM group compared with the surgical control group in any of the experiments conducted, so showing that the anterior thalamic lesion effects were not due to non-specific damage to the fornix by NMDA. This series of experiments demonstrated that complete lesions of the anterior thalamic region impair the ability to process allocentric information, and provide evidence for a contribution from the lateral dorsal thalamic nucleus.

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