Effects of dorsal hippocampus catecholamine depletion on paired-associates learning and place learning in rats

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Growing evidence suggests that the catecholamine (CA) neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenaline support hippocampus-mediated learning and memory. However, little is known to date about which forms of hippocampus-mediated spatial learning are modulated by CA signaling in the hippocampus. Therefore, in the current study we examined the effects of 6-hydroxydopamine-induced CA depletion in the dorsal hippocampus on two prominent forms of hippocampus-based spatial learning, that is learning of object-location associations (paired-associates learning) as well as learning and choosing actions based on a representation of the context (place learning). Results show that rats with CA depletion of the dorsal hippocampus were able to learn object-location associations in an automated touch screen paired-associates learning (PAL) task. One possibility to explain this negative result is that object-location learning as tested in the touchscreen PAL task seems to require relatively little hippocampal processing. Results further show that in rats with CA depletion of the dorsal hippocampus the use of a response strategy was facilitated in a T-maze spatial learning task. We suspect that impaired hippocampus CA signaling may attenuate hippocampus-based place learning and favor dorsolateral striatum-based response learning.

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