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Distinct components of spatial learning revealed by prior training and NMDA receptor blockade

Nature volume 378, pages 182186 (09 November 1995) | Download Citation

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Abstract

SYNAPTIC plasticity dependent on N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors is thought to underlie certain types of learning and memory1–3. In support of this, both hippocampal long-term potentiation and spatial learning in a watermaze are impaired by blocking NMDA receptors with a selective antagonist D(-)-2-amino-5-phosphonovaleric acid (AP5)4 or by a mutation in one of the receptor subunits5. Here we report, however, that the AP5-induced learning deficit can be almost completely prevented if rats are pretrained in a different watermaze before administration of the drug. This is not because of stimulus generalization, and occurs despite learning of the second task remaining hippocampus dependent. An A PS5-induced learning deficit is, however, still seen if the animals are pretrained using a non-spatial task. Thus, despite its procedural simplicity, the watermaze may involve multiple cognitive processes with distinct pharmacological properties; although required for some component of spatial learning, NMDA receptors may not be required for encoding the spatial representation of a specific environment.

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Author information

Author notes

    • S. P. Butcher

    Fujisawa Institute for Neuroscience, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9JZ, UK

    • D. M. Bannerman
    •  & M. A. Good

    Present addresses: Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Oxford 0X1 3UD, UK (D.M.B.); School of Psychology, Cardiff University of Wales, Cardiff CF1 3YG, UK (M.A.G.).

    • R. G. M. Morris

    To whom correspondence should be addressed.

Affiliations

  1. Centre for Neuroscience and Department of Pharmacology, University of Edinburgh Medical School, Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9LE, UK

    • D. M. Bannerman
    • , M. A. Good
    • , S. P. Butcher
    • , M. Ramsay
    •  & R. G. M. Morris

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https://doi.org/10.1038/378182a0

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