Enhanced detection of nucleus basalis magnocellularis lesion-induced spatial learning deficit in rats by modification of training regimen

Behav Brain Res. 1989 Jan 1;31(3):221-9. doi: 10.1016/0166-4328(89)90004-1.


Bilateral excitotoxic lesions of the nucleus basalis magnocellularis (NBM) in the rat cause deficits in the water maze, a spatial memory paradigm. Previous investigations aimed at reversing the water maze performance deficit with anticholinesterase treatments have been unable to demonstrate a consistent drug effect due to the relatively good acquisition of the task seen following NBM lesions. The present investigation tested three different water maze training regimens designed to separate the learning curves. F-344 rats received bilateral NBM injections of ibotenic acid; sham-operated rats served as controls. The animals were tested in three groups in the water maze as follows: (1) four trials per day with no intertrial interval (standard paradigm), (2) four trials per day with a 10-minute intertrial interval, and (3) two trials per day with no intertrial interval. Each group was tested in the water maze for five consecutive days, followed by two days of rest, and then tested for an additional five days. The two-trial per day paradigm was more difficult than the standard paradigm for both lesions and controls and yielded the most difference between lesions and controls as compared to the other two testing regimens. The 10-min intertrial interval schedule was more difficult than the standard paradigm for lesioned animals but acquisition was not affected in control rats. These data demonstrate that the nucleus basalis lesions cause a deficit in the water maze task regardless of training parameters. Further, while all rats showed some acquisition of the water maze task, training schedule affected the level of learning of both lesioned and control rats.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / physiology
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Substantia Innominata / physiology*


  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase