Hippocampal lesions disrupt navigation based on cognitive maps but not heading vectors

Nature. 1998 Nov 5;396(6706):75-7. doi: 10.1038/23941.


Animals can find a hidden goal in several ways. They might use a cognitive map that encodes information about the geometric relationship between the goal and two or more landmarks. Alternatively, they might use a heading vector that specifies the direction and distance of the goal from a single landmark. Rats with damage to the hippocampus have difficulty in finding a hidden goal. Here we determine which of the above strategies is affected by such damage. Rats were required to swim in a water maze to a submerged platform, which was always at the same distance and direction from a landmark. The platform and landmark remained in the same place for the four trials of each session, but they were moved to a new position at the start of a session. Rats with damage to the hippocampus found the platform more efficiently than did normal rats in the first trial of a session but, in contrast to normal rats, their performance did not improve during a session. Our results indicate that hippocampally damaged rats are able to navigate by means of heading vectors but not cognitive maps.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / physiology*
  • Orientation / physiology
  • Rats
  • Swimming