The mammalian hippocampus is anatomically heterogeneous along its longitudinal axis, and there is evidence that distinct functions are executed by different septotemporal subregions. The best documented example is the dependency of spatial learning on the septal, but not the temporal, hippocampus. Here, we carried out a watermaze memory task in rats with partial lesions of the septal or temporal hippocampus made either before or after training. We then studied memory retention, reversal, and new spatial learning in a novel environment. This resulted in the surprising finding that spatial learning in a new environment is dependent on the temporal hippocampus in rats with preoperative experience of a different pool. Rats with septal hippocampal lesions made after learning not only retained the focused search strategy that was acquired during preoperative training, but were also capable of rapid spatial learning in a second pool. This demonstrates that once spatial information has been acquired in one context, related new learning in a different context can be mediated by the temporal hippocampus, a result that challenges the widely held view that spatial memory is an exclusive function of the septal hippocampus.
- Water maze