Similarities and differences between the brain networks underlying allocentric and egocentric spatial learning in rat revealed by cytochrome oxidase histochemistry.
ABSTRACT The involvement of different brain regions in place- and response-learning was examined using a water cross-maze. Rats were trained to find the goal from the initial arm by turning left at the choice point (egocentric strategy) or by using environmental cues (allocentric strategy). Although different strategies were required, the same maze and learning conditions were used. Using cytochrome oxidase histochemistry as a marker of cellular activity, the function of the 13 diverse cortical and subcortical regions was assessed in rats performing these two tasks. Our results show that allocentric learning depends on the recruitment of a large functional network, which includes the hippocampal CA3, dentate gyrus, medial mammillary nucleus and supramammillary nucleus. Along with the striatum, these last three structures are also related to egocentric spatial learning. The present study provides evidence for the contribution of these regions to spatial navigation and supports a possible functional interaction between the two memory systems, as their structural convergence may facilitate functional cooperation in the behaviours guided by more than one strategy. In summary, it can be argued that spatial learning is based on dynamic functional systems in which the interaction of brain regions is modulated by task requirements.