The present study examined the effects of lesions to the dorsal striatum (DS) in Sprague-Dawley rats, when tested on the acquisition and successive shifts in the position of a goal arm in an eight-arm radial maze. In the procedure we used, rats had to retrieve the location of one baited arm among the eight arms of the maze after it had just been presented as a sample during a forced trial. After attainment of a fixed learning criterion, rats were submitted to five successive shifts in the goal location. Results showed that DS rats were able to learn the position of the goal arm during the acquisition phase as efficiently as sham-operated rats. In contrast, when the position of the goal arm was shifted, although DS rats were able to learn its new position, they made significantly more errors and required more sessions to reach criterion than sham-operated rats. These results suggested that both groups did not solve the task using the same behavioral strategy. The analysis of responses made suggested that sham-operated rats solved the task using the pairing rule between the forced and the free run (matching-to-sample rule), while DS rats solved the task using only visuo-spatial processing. These data therefore suggest that the dorsal striatum plays an important role in rule-learning ability.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.