Similarities and differences between the brain networks underlying allocentric and egocentric spatial learning in rat revealed by cytochrome oxidase histochemistry
Department of Biological Psychology and Health, Autonomous University of Madrid, Ciudad Universitaria de Cantoblanco s/n, 28049 Madrid, Spain. Electronic address: .Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 3.36). 08/2012; 223:174-82. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2012.07.066
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.
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ABSTRACT: We have studied the effects of exercise in aged rats (18 months-old) on spatial learning and changes in neuronal metabolic activity associated with exercise program and the spatial learning process. The changes on neuronal oxidative metabolic activity was studied through cytochrome c oxidase histochemistry (COx) in brain regions related to spatial memory, reward, and motor activity after a forced exercise program on Rotarod. The spatial learning task was performed in the 4 arm-radial arm water maze (4-RAWM). Exercise program improved slightly the performance, with more percentage of entries into the correct arm along the days. Respect to COx activity, exercise increased the basal oxidative metabolism in frontal regions, such as motor, cingulate and retrosplenial cortex, and in central and basolateral amygdala. In the spatial memory task, the exercise group showed lower COx activity than the non-exercise group in prefrontal cortex, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, amygdala, hippocampus, retrosplenial cortex, tegmental ventral area and supramammillary nucleus, but the neuronal activity increased in the motor cortex in exercised group. These results suggest that our exercise program produces a more accurate performance and it increased efficiency, because the exercise group had lower neuronal metabolic needs in the regions implicated in the spatial memory process. Also, the reduction of COx activity in brain regions traditionally related to stress and some behavioral parameters, such as the lower velocity or more time spent in the center of the maze, may indicate a possible reduction of anxiety in the exercise group during the spatial task.
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ABSTRACT: We assessed the effect of 3 hours of EE exposure per day started at different ages (3 and 18 months old) on the performance in a spatial memory task and on brain regions involved in the spatial learning process using the Principal Component Analysis (PCA). The animals were tested in the four-arm radial water maze (4-RAWM) for 4 days, with 6 daily trials. We used cytochrome c oxidase histochemistry (COx) to determine the brain oxidative metabolic changes related to age, spatial learning and EE. Behavioral results showed that the enriched groups, regardless of their age, achieved better performance in the spatial task. Interestingly, in the case of the distance travelled in the 4-RAWM, the effect of the EE was dependent on the age, so the young enriched group travelled a shorter distance compared to the aged enriched group. Respect to COx results, we found that different brain mechanisms are triggered in aged rats to solve the spatial task, compared to young rats. PCA revealed the same brain functional network in both age groups, but the contribution of the brain regions involved in this network was slightly different depending on the age of the rats. Thus, in the aged group, brain regions involved in anxiety-like behaviour, such as the amygdala or the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis had more relevance; whereas in the young enriched group the frontal and the hippocampal subregions had more contribution.
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ABSTRACT: We have studied the effect of an environmental enrichment (EE) protocol in adult Wistar rats on the activity in the elevated zero-maze (EZM), performance in the radial-arm water maze (RAWM) and we have also examined the changes in the neuronal metabolic activity of several brain regions related to anxiety response and spatial memory through cytochrome c oxidase histochemistry (COx). Our EE protocol had anxiolytic effect in the EZM; the animals spent more time and made more entries into the open quadrants, they had lower latency to enter into the open quadrant and lower levels of defecation. Also, the EE group showed fewer working memory and reference memory errors, as well as lesser distance travelled in the first days of the spatial training. In relation to the neuronal metabolic activity, EE reduced the COx activity in brain regions related to anxiety response, such as the infralimbic cortex, the paraventricular thalamic and hypothalamic nucleus, the basolateral amygdala, and the ventral hippocampus. Interestingly, there were no significant differences between groups in the dorsal hippocampus, more related to spatial cognition. These results suggest a beneficial effect of EE on spatial memory as a result of reducing anxiety levels and the COx activity in brain regions involved in anxiety response. We also found a differential pattern of activation inside the hippocampus, suggesting that the dorsal hippocampus has a preferential involvement in spatial learning and memory, whereas the ventral hippocampus has a role in anxiety response.
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