Faculté des sciences

Spatial memory and the monkey hippocampus: not all space is created equal

Lavenex, Pamela Banta ; Lavenex, Pierre

In: Hippocampus, 2009, vol. 19, no. 1, p. 8-19

Studies of the role of the monkey hippocampus in spatial learning and memory, however few, have reliably produced inconsistent results. Whereas the role of the hippocampus in spatial learning and memory has been clearly established in rodents, studies in nonhuman primates have made a variety of claims that range from the involvement of the hippocampus in spatial memory only at relatively longer... Plus

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    Summary
    Studies of the role of the monkey hippocampus in spatial learning and memory, however few, have reliably produced inconsistent results. Whereas the role of the hippocampus in spatial learning and memory has been clearly established in rodents, studies in nonhuman primates have made a variety of claims that range from the involvement of the hippocampus in spatial memory only at relatively longer memory delays, to no role for the hippocampus in spatial memory at all. In contrast, we have shown that selective damage restricted to the hippocampus (CA regions) prevents the learning or use of allocentric, spatial relational representations of the environment in freely behaving adult monkeys tested in an open-field arena. In this commentary, we discuss a unifying framework that explains these apparently discrepant results regarding the role of the monkey hippocampus in spatial learning and memory. We describe clear and strict criteria to interpret the findings from previous studies and guide future investigations of spatial memory in monkeys. Specifically, we affirm that, as in the rodent, the primate hippocampus is critical for spatial relational learning and memory, and in a time-independent manner. We describe how claims to the contrary are the result of experimental designs that fail to recognize, and control for, egocentric (hippocampus-independent) and allocentric (hippocampus-dependent) spatial frames of reference. Finally, we conclude that the available data demonstrate unequivocally that the central role of the hippocampus in allocentric, spatial relational learning and memory is conserved among vertebrates, including nonhuman primates.