Hippocampectomy Disrupts Trace Eye-Blink Conditioning in Rabbits

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The role of the hippocampus (HFC) in trace eye-blink conditioning was evaluated using a 100-ms tone conditioned stimulus (CS), a 300- or 500-ms trace interval, and a 150-ms air puff unconditioned stimulus (UCS). Rabbits received complete hippocampectomy (dorsal & ventral), sham lesions, or neocortical lesions. Hippocampectomy produced differential effects in relation to the trace interval used. With a 300-ms trace interval, HPC-lesioned Ss showed profound resistance to extinction after acquisition. With a 500-ms trace interval, HPC-lesioned Ss did not learn the task (only 22% conditioned responses (CRs) after 25 sessions, whereas controls showed >80% after 10 sessions), and on the few trials in which a CR occurred, most were “nonadaptive” short-latency CRs (i.e., they started during or just after the CS and always terminated prior to UCS onset). The authors conclude that the HPC encodes a temporal relationship between CS and UCS, and when the trace interval is long enough (e.g., 500 ms), that the HPC is necessary for associative learning of the conditioned eye-blink response.

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