The role of the dorsal and ventral hippocampus in olfactory working memory

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2011 Sep;96(2):361-6. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2011.06.011. Epub 2011 Jul 1.


Olfactory working memory and pattern separation for odor information was assessed in male rats using a matching-to-sample for odors paradigm. The odor set consisted of a five aliphatic acids with unbranched carbon chains that varied from two- to six-carbons in length. Each trial consisted of a sample phase followed by a choice phase. During the sample phase, rats would receive one of five different odors. Fifteen seconds later during the choice phase one of the previous odors was presented simultaneously side by side with a different odor that was based on the number of aliphatic acids that varied in the carbon chains from two- to six-carbons in length and rats were allowed to choose between the two odors. The rule to be learned in order to receive a food reward was to always choose the odor that occurred during the study phase. Odor separations of 1, 2, 3 or 4 were selected for each choice phase and represented the carbon chain difference between the study phase odor and the test phase odor. Once an animal reached a criterion of 80-90% correct across all temporal separations based on 40 trials, rats received a control, dorsal hippocampal, or ventral hippocampal lesion and were retested on the task. On postoperative trials, only the ventral hippocampal lesion group was impaired relative to both control and dorsal hippocampal groups groups. There were no effects on odor pattern separation. All groups of rats could discriminate between the odors. The data suggest that the ventral hippocampus, but not dorsal hippocampus, supports working memory for odor information.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Perception / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Smell / physiology