Preserved configural learning and spatial learning impairment in rats with hippocampal damage

Hippocampus. 1992 Jan;2(1):81-8. doi: 10.1002/hipo.450020111.


This study was undertaken to compare the effect of hippocampal neurotoxic lesions in rats on two behavioral tasks, one a test of spatial learning, and the other an operant discrimination task that is acquired by forming nonspatial configural associations. Lesions of the hippocampus were made with microinjections of ibotenic acid. After postoperative recovery, rats were trained initially to locate a camouflaged escape platform in a water maze using distal spatial cues. Rats also were trained in the maze apparatus with a visible escape platform under conditions in which spatial information was made irrelevant to performance, i.e., cue learning. In an operant task, the same rats were then trained on a discrimination that included simultaneous feature positive and feature negative components (trial types XA+, A-, XB-, B+). After completion of this nonspatial configural learning task, rats received additional training in the water maze using a new platform location for spatial learning. To the extent that proficient performance in both the maze and operant tasks depends on a common function of the hippocampus, i.e., configural learning, the expectation was that hippocampal lesions would prove equally detrimental to performance in both tasks. Contrary to this expectation, lesioned rats were severely impaired in spatial learning but readily acquired the operant discrimination, even exhibiting some evidence of enhanced performance on this nonspatial configural learning task. Performance of the lesioned rats during cue training in the water maze was also enhanced relative to the control group.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Association Learning / physiology
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Ibotenic Acid
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Neurotoxins
  • Rats
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Swimming


  • Neurotoxins
  • Ibotenic Acid