The hippocampus is thought to be required for the associative recognition of objects together with the spatial or temporal contexts in which they occur. However, recent data showing that rats with fornix lesions perform as well as controls in an object-place task, while being impaired on an object-place-context task (Eacott and Norman (2004) J Neurosci 24:1948-1953), suggest that not all forms of context-dependent associative recognition depend on the integrity of the hippocampus. To examine the role of the hippocampus in context-dependent recognition directly, the present study tested the effects of large, selective, bilateral hippocampus lesions in rats on performance of a series of spontaneous recognition memory tasks: object recognition, object-place recognition, object-context recognition and object-place-context recognition. Consistent with the effects of fornix lesions, animals with hippocampus lesions were impaired only on the object-place-context task. These data confirm that not all forms of context-dependent associative recognition are mediated by the hippocampus. Subsequent experiments suggested that the object-place task does not require an allocentric representation of space, which could account for the lack of impairment following hippocampus lesions. Importantly, as the object-place-context task has similar spatial requirements, the selective deficit in object-place-context recognition suggests that this task requires hippocampus-dependent neural processes distinct from those required for allocentric spatial memory, or for object memory, object-place memory or object-context memory. Two possibilities are that object, place, and context information converge only in the hippocampus, or that recognition of integrated object-place-context information requires a hippocampus-dependent mode of retrieval, such as recollection.
© 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.