Spatial memory impairment induced by lesion of the mesohippocampal dopaminergic system in the rat

Neuroscience. 1996 Oct;74(4):1037-44. doi: 10.1016/0306-4522(96)00202-3.


The hippocampal formation has long been thought to play a role in learning and memory. Previous studies from our laboratory examined the organization of mesencephalic projections to the hippocampal formation in the rat. In order to evaluate the effects on learning and memory of retrograde selective lesions of mesencephalic dopaminergic neurons, following bilateral injection of 6-hydroxydopamine in the dorsal and ventral subiculum and adjacent CA1 field of the hippocampal formation, young adult Sprague-Dawley rats were trained in classical inhibitory avoidance, inhibitory avoidance using a multiple trial (training to criterion) and the standard Morris water maze task (cued and spatial versions). With regard to inhibitory avoidance, retention was examined one, three and 10 days after training. Concerning the Morris water maze task, 6-hydroxydopamine-lesioned and sham-operated rats received four training trials on each of four days. After training sessions, the rats were tested during a 60-s probe trial (free-swim trial) in which the platform was removed from the maze. The loss of mesencephalic dopaminergic neurons in the 6-hydroxydopamine-lesioned rats, compared to sham-operated rats, was verified by tyrosine hydroxylase immunohistochemistry. Although the 6-hydroxydopamine-lesioned rats were indistinguishable from sham-operated rats in performing the inhibitory avoidance and the cued version of the Morris water maze task, in the spatial version of the Morris water maze, lesioned rats, compared to controls, exhibited significant differences in the latency (P < 0.05), quadrant time (P < 0.01) and number of platform crossings (P < 0.05). These results suggest that the rat's ability to acquire spatial learning and memory for place navigation in the Morris water maze is likely to be dependent also on the integrity of mesohippocampal dopaminergic connections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning / drug effects
  • Cues
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Electroshock
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / drug effects
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Oxidopamine / toxicity
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Swimming
  • Sympatholytics / toxicity


  • Sympatholytics
  • Oxidopamine
  • Dopamine