Rats with ventral hippocampal damage are impaired at various forms of learning including conditioned inhibition, spatial navigation, and discriminative fear conditioning to similar contexts

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The ventral hippocampus (vHPC) has been implicated in learning and memory functions that seem to differ from its dorsal counterpart. The goal of this series of experiments was to provide further insight into the functional contributions of the vHPC. Our previous work implicated the vHPC in spatial learning, inhibitory learning, and fear conditioning to context. However, the specific role of vHPC on these different forms of learning are not clear. Accordingly, we assessed the effects of neurotoxic lesions of the ventral hippocampus on retention of a conditioned inhibitory association, early versus late spatial navigation in the water task, and discriminative fear conditioning to context under high ambiguity conditions. The results showed that the vHPC was necessary for the expression of conditioned inhibition, early spatial learning, and discriminative fear conditioning to context when the paired and unpaired contexts have high cue overlap. We argue that this pattern of effects, combined with previous work, suggests a key role for vHPC in the utilization of broad contextual representations for inhibition and discriminative memory in high ambiguity conditions.

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