Disruption to the anterior thalamus (AT) may be an important factor in diencephalic amnesia. Rats with small lesions of the anteromedial (AM) or anteroventral (AV) nucleus showed persistent working-memory and reference-memory deficits in a 12-arm radial maze, although they were comparable to controls during the early part of training. The only activity difference in the maze was that lesioned rats failed to run more slowly when revisiting a baited arm. For all groups, both working and reference memory were impaired after extramaze cues were removed; removal of intramaze cues further impaired performance relative to the original conditions. These findings suggest the AT makes a distinct contribution to mnemonic functions, probably as part of an integrated system involving limbic cortex and the hippocampal formation, and that AT lesions produce a general rather than a specific deficit in spatial or working memory.