Unilateral lesions to the anterior thalamic nuclei (ATN) and the hippocampus (H) were made in opposite hemispheres in the rat to examine whether these brain structures form part of a functional neural pathway underlying spatial learning and memory. In the first experiment, rats were tested on a spatial-visual conditional associative task in which they had to learn to approach one of two stimuli depending on the spatial context in which the stimuli were embedded. The rats were subsequently trained on delayed forced alternation, a spatial working memory task known to be sensitive to the effects of ATNxH damage. Rats with ATNxH lesions were impaired in the acquisition of both tasks in comparison with normal control animals. The findings support the idea that the anterior thalamic nuclei and the hippocampus are critical components of an anatomical system subserving spatial memory and suggest that these brain regions work in a dependent fashion during the performance of certain spatial learning tasks.