Ibotenate Lesions of Hippocampus and/or Subiculum: Dissociating Components of Allocentric Spatial Learning

Eur J Neurosci. 1990;2(12):1016-1028. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.1990.tb00014.x.


This study examined the effects of ibotenic acid-induced lesions of the hippocampus, subiculum and hippocampus +/- subiculum upon the capacity of rats to learn and perform a series of allocentric spatial learning tasks in an open-field water maze. The lesions were made by infusing small volumes of the neurotoxin at a total of 26 (hippocampus) or 20 (subiculum) sites intended to achieve complete target cell loss but minimal extratarget damage. The regional extent and axon-sparing nature of these lesions was evaluated using both cresyl violet and Fink - Heimer stained sections. The behavioural findings indicated that both the hippocampus and subiculum lesions caused impairment to the initial postoperative acquisition of place navigation but did not prevent eventual learning to levels of performance almost as effective as those of controls. However, overtraining of the hippocampus + subiculum lesioned rats did not result in significant place learning. Qualitative observations of the paths taken to find a hidden escape platform indicated that different strategies were deployed by hippocampal and subiculum lesioned groups. Subsequent training on a delayed matching to place task revealed a deficit in all lesioned groups across a range of sample choice intervals, but the subiculum lesioned group was less impaired than the group with the hippocampal lesion. Finally, unoperated control rats given both the initial training and overtraining were later given either a hippocampal lesion or sham surgery. The hippocampal lesioned rats were impaired during a subsequent retention/relearning phase. Together, these findings suggest that total hippocampal cell loss may cause a dual deficit: a slower rate of place learning and a separate navigational impairment. The prospect of unravelling dissociable components of allocentric spatial learning is discussed.