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Hippocampus

Distinct roles of hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex in spatial and nonspatial memory.


PMID 27576311

Abstract

In earlier work, patients with hippocampal damage successfully path integrated, apparently by maintaining spatial information in working memory. In contrast, rats with hippocampal damage were unable to path integrate, even when the paths were simple and working memory might have been expected to support performance. We considered possible ways to understand these findings. We tested rats with either hippocampal lesions or lesions of medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) on three tasks of spatial or nonspatial memory: path integration, spatial alternation, and a nonspatial alternation task. Rats with mPFC lesions were impaired on both spatial and nonspatial alternation but performed normally on path integration. By contrast, rats with hippocampal lesions were impaired on path integration and spatial alternation but performed normally on nonspatial alternation. We propose that rodent neocortex is limited in its ability to construct a coherent spatial working memory of complex environments. Accordingly, in tasks such as path integration and spatial alternation, working memory cannot depend on neocortex alone. Rats may accomplish many spatial memory tasks by relying on long-term memory. Alternatively, they may accomplish these tasks within working memory through sustained coordination between hippocampus and other cortical brain regions such as mPFC, in the case of spatial alternation, or parietal cortex in the case of path integration. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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