There is a broad discussion concerning the function of new neurons in the adult brain. An increasingly accepted hypothesis proposes their crucial role in spatial learning. In this work, however, we demonstrate adult cyclin D2 knockout (cD2 KO) mice, which lack adult hippocampal neurogenesis, are able to learn a spatial version of the Barnes maze. Similar to wild type (WT) controls, these mutant mice exhibited several indicators of learning during 6 days of training: successively shorter latency and distance, higher speed, and decreasing number of errors. WT and cD2 KO mice showed improved search strategies, which became increasingly spatial. During probe Trial 1, mutant mice attained the highest significant number of nose-pokes at the former target hole compared with all the other holes. Both WT and cD2 KO mice covered shorter distances during probe Trial 2, whereas the mutant mice showed higher speed. We also discuss the possibility that some of the observed differences displayed by cD2 KO mice during training and at the probe trials-for example, longer mean distance and more errors-are associated with a smaller hippocampal formation. Our results suggest that adult brain neurogenesis is not obligatory for learning the Barnes maze.
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