Citation Smith AE, Cheek OA, Sweet ELC, Dudchenko PA & Wood ER (2019) Lesions of the Head Direction Cell System Impair Direction Discrimination. Behavioral Neuroscience, 133 (6), pp. 602-613. https://doi.org/10.1037/bne0000341
Abstract Previous results suggest that directional information from the head direction cell circuit may inform hippocampal place cell firing when an animal is confronted with visually identical environments. To investigate whether such information might also be essential for spatial behavior, we tested adult, male Lister Hooded rats that had received either bilateral lateral mammillary nuclei (LMN) lesions or sham lesions on a four-way, conditional odor-location discrimintion in compartments arranged at 60o to one another. We found that significantly fewer rats in the LMN lesion group were able to learn the task compared to the Sham group. We also found that the extent of the behavioral impairment was highly correlated with the degree of tissue loss in the LMN resulting from the lesion. Animals with LMN lesions were also impaired in a non-matching to sample task in a T-maze, although the extent of impairment was not sensitive to the extent of the lesion. Performance in the odor-location and T-maze tasks was not affected by tissue loss in the medial mammillary nuclei. Together, these results indicate that the LMN, a key node in the head direction circuit, is critical for solving a spatial task that requires a directional discrimination.
Keywords lateral mammillary nuclei; head direction cells; spatial cognition; associative memory; T-maze; medial mammillary nuclei; odor discrimination; context discrimination