Effect of spatial visual cue proximity and thalamic lesions on performance of rats on a cheeseboard maze task
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Episodic memory is processed by the extended hippocampal system, and pathology or injury to individual components of this system can result in deficits in spatial learning and memory (Aggleton & Brown, 1999). Extensive research regarding spatial memory has been carried out on the anterior thalamic nuclei, a component of the extended hippocampal system, but the contribution of the laterodorsal thalamic nuclei, an adjacent structure with similar neural connections, is less clear. The purpose of the present study was to compare the effects of selective anterior thalamic nuclei lesions (AT) with selective laterodorsal thalamic nuclei lesions (LD) in a novel land-based spatial reference memory task. This assessed the use of proximal and distal visual cues on the propensity to use allocentric or egocentric navigation strategies to locate a specific place in space, as well as the temporal evolution of these navigation strategies. AT lesion impairments were observed in the acquisition trials in both proximal and distal cue conditions. LD lesion rats were unimpaired in the acquisition trials in both visual cue conditions. Across the probe trials, lesion effects were not observed when tested for general navigation, egocentric or allocentric strategies, and there was no clear improvement in performance over the four weeks of probe trials. However, performance was consistently poorer for all groups when proximal cues facilitated navigation compared to distal cues. Performance differences related to cue proximity may reflect the influence of motion parallax, the perceived displacement rate of visual cues. The absence of lesion effects across probes were thought to be due to the preferential use of cued navigation, which was reliant on a single salient beacon, and the lack of integration between cued and place navigation, which was reliant on the formation of a spatial representation.