The present study compared the relative influence of location and direction on navigation in the Morris water task. Rats were trained with a fixed hidden or cued platform, and probe trials were conducted with the pool repositioned such that the absolute spatial location of the platform was centered in the opposite quadrant of the pool. Rather than swimming to the platform location, rats swam in the direction that was reinforced during training, resulting in navigation to the relative location of the platform in the pool and search at the appropriate distance from the pool wall. Pool relocation tests revealed disruptions in cued navigation if the cued platform remained at the absolute location, whereas no disruption was observed if the platform remained at the relative location (same direction). The results indicate that direction holds greater influence than does location and further demonstrate that this observation is not altered by the amount of training or time on the platform. The authors propose that navigation in the water task involves a movement vector in which the distal cues and apparatus provide direction and distance information, respectively.
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