Anterior but not intralaminar thalamic nuclei support allocentric spatial memory

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2008 Jul;90(1):71-80. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2008.01.007. Epub 2008 Mar 4.


Medial thalamic damage is a common cause of severe memory disruption in humans. Both the anterior thalamic nuclei (ATN) and the intralaminar thalamic nuclei (ILN) have been suggested as primary sites of diencephalic injury underlying learning and memory deficits, but their respective roles have yet to be resolved. The present study explicitly compared two spatial memory tasks in male PVGc hooded rats with selective neurotoxic lesions to either (1) the ATN or (2) the rostral ILN (and adjacent lateral mediodorsal thalamic nuclei; ILN/LT lesions). As predicted, the ATN group, but not the ILN/LT group, exhibited clear deficits in the Morris water maze task for the initial acquisition of a fixed hidden platform and its reversal to a new position. The second task examined acquisition of egocentric spatial reference memory for a left or right body turn, using any three arms in an 8-arm water maze on any given trial; contrary to predictions, both lesion groups performed as well as the Sham group. The lack of deficits in ILN/LT rats on this second task contrasted with previous findings reporting a detrimental effect of ILN/LT lesions on egocentric working memory. The clear dissociation between the influence of ATN and ILN/LT lesions with respect to allocentric spatial reference memory in the Morris maze emphasizes that caution is required when interpreting the effects of non-ATN thalamic lesions on spatial memory when the lesions encroach substantial areas of the adjacent ATN region.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anterior Thalamic Nuclei / physiology*
  • Intralaminar Thalamic Nuclei / physiology*
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Orientation / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Swimming