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Rats were trained on a spatial delayed-nonmatching-to-sample (DNMTS) task and assigned by block randomization to one of four treatments: pyrithiamine-induced thiamine deficiency (PTD), PTD with administration of MK-801 after 12 days, control with MK-801 treatment, and control without MK-801. After 15 days of treatment followed by 21 days of recovery, the PTD rats showed significant deficits for DNMTS accuracy at retention intervals (RI) that ranged from 3.0 s to 15.0 s, the RIs that produced 75% accuracy on DNMTS in staircase training, and the rate at which a novel radial arm maze task was learned. The PTD-treated rats had consistent lesions in the thalamus and the mammillary bodies. MK-801 protected rats from both behavioral deficits and brain lesions (assessed quantitatively and qualitatively) that were produced by the PTD treatment.