Impairments of discrimination reversal are commonly found following lesions of the hippocampal system. In a recent experiment, however, acquisition of a reversed discrimination was actually facilitated, rather than impaired, by partial lesions of the fimbria-fornix (FFX), an extrinsic fiber connection to the hippocampus. That experiment differed from most previous reversal experiments in that the discriminative stimuli were olfactory rather than spatial or visual, and 3 discriminations were given prior to the reversal of the third discrimination, rather than a single discrimination. The present experiment was designed to determine the generality of the results obtained in the olfactory experiment. Rats with partial lesions of the FFX and operated controls were tested on a series of 3 Go, No-go spatial discriminations, a reversal of the third discrimination, and 4 subsequent discriminations, in that order. Control rats acquired a learning set in the first 3 discriminations, reaching criterion on the third discrimination in fewer trials than they took on the first discrimination. Their choice accuracy was not significantly affected by the reversal and discrimination performance reached an asymptotic level after the reversal. Rats with FFX lesions also acquired a learning set in the first 3 discriminations, but they consistently took longer than control rats to learn each of the 7 discriminations. These rats were especially impaired on the reversal. These results contrast markedly with those obtained when a similar procedure was used with olfactory discriminations. Identification of the variables responsible for these differences should help distinguish those behaviors that require hippocampal function from those that do not.
- learning set