The cognitive map theory of hippocampal function (O'Keefe & Nadel, 1978, The Hippocampus as a Cognitive Map, Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press) has recently been challenged by the assertion that this neural structure is involved in “working memory” rather than mapping (Olton, Becker, & Handelmann, 1979, The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2, 313–365). In a within-subjects design where each lesioned animal served as its own control, rats were trained on two versions (PLACE and CUE) of a maze task designed to simultaneously assess long-term and short-term (working) memory function. After lesions in the hippocampus, rats rapidly regained criterion in the CUE task but not the PLACE task. Their performance was uninfluenced by the putative working memory aspects of the tasks. These data support cognitive map theory and its assertion that the defect following damage to the hippocampus is, at least in rats, selectively spatial.
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