Dissecting spatial knowledge from spatial choice by hippocampal NMDA receptor deletion

Nat Neurosci. 2012 Jul 15;15(8):1153-9. doi: 10.1038/nn.3166.


Hippocampal NMDA receptors (NMDARs) and NMDAR-dependent synaptic plasticity are widely considered crucial substrates of long-term spatial memory, although their precise role remains uncertain. Here we show that Grin1(ΔDGCA1) mice, lacking GluN1 and hence NMDARs in all dentate gyrus and dorsal CA1 principal cells, acquired the spatial reference memory water maze task as well as controls, despite impairments on the spatial reference memory radial maze task. When we ran a spatial discrimination water maze task using two visually identical beacons, Grin1(ΔDGCA1) mice were impaired at using spatial information to inhibit selecting the decoy beacon, despite knowing the platform's actual spatial location. This failure could suffice to impair radial maze performance despite spatial memory itself being normal. Thus, these hippocampal NMDARs are not essential for encoding or storing long-term, associative spatial memories. Instead, we demonstrate an important function of the hippocampus in using spatial knowledge to select between alternative responses that arise from competing or overlapping memories.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Dentate Gyrus / metabolism
  • Dentate Gyrus / physiopathology
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Maze Learning / physiology
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / deficiency*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Space Perception / physiology


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Gprin1 protein, mouse
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate