Effect of excitotoxic lesions of rat medial prefrontal cortex on spatial memory

Laurent Lacroix, Ilsun White, Joram Feldon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The involvement of medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) in spatial learning was examined in two memory tasks using spatial components, the Morris water maze and the three-panel runway. Using the Morris water maze task, with an invisible platform, the effects of NMDA mPFC lesions were assessed in a procedure reflecting spatial learning and memory, including a spatial reversal. In the three-panel runway, a delayed matching-to-position procedure was used in which rats were required to find food at the end of the runway after passing through one of three panel gates set into four barriers spaced equally apart along the maze. In addition, mPFC lesions were assessed behaviorally in two behavioral tests known to be sensitive to mPFC dysfunction: the food hoarding paradigm and spontaneous locomotion in the open field. Consistent with the documented effects of mPFC damage, NMDA mPFC lesions impaired food hoarding behavior and increased spontaneous exploratory locomotion. In the Morris water maze and the three-panel runway, mPFC-lesioned rats showed relatively few effects, supporting the conclusion that the damage inflicted to the mPFC had no consequence for the processing of spatial information. However, mPFC lesioned animals showed slower acquisition during both the training trial in the three-panel runway and the reversal training in the Morris water maze. These results suggest that spatial memory did not depend on mPFC integrity in the Morris water maze and the three-panel runway experiments, and address the issue of deficits induced by mPFC lesions in memory tasks dependent on non-mnemonic processes such as attentional processes and/or a reduced behavioral flexibility to environmental changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-81
Number of pages13
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 15 Jun 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Medial prefrontal cortex
  • Morris water maze
  • Rat
  • Spatial learning and memory
  • Three-panel runway


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