The effects of central catecholamine depletions on spatial learning in rats

J. J. Hagan, J. E. Alpert, R. G.M. Morris, S. D. Iversen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


The role of forebrain catecholamine systems in spatial learning was assessed using a recently described place navigation task. Rats were required to learn the spatial location of a platform hidden 1 cm below the surface in order to escape from a large pool filled with opaque water. Circumscribed destruction of dopamine or noradrenaline neurones was achieved with bilateral stereotaxic injections of 6-hydroxydopamine. Rats with neostriatal dopamine depletions showed regulatory impairments, mild akinesia and increased latencies to escape during training on both the spatial task and on a non-spatial control task. However their normal transfer test performance indicated that their deficit was not due to impaired spatial learning. Similarly, spatial learning and transfer test performance were unimpaired by mesocorticolimbic dopamine depletions or by extensive noradrenaline loss in cortex and hippocampus following dorsal noradrenergic bundle lesions. These findings suggest that considerable spatial learning can occur in the absence of each of the major telencephalic catecholamine systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-104
Number of pages22
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1983
Externally publishedYes


  • 6-hydroxydopamine
  • dopamine, noradrenaline
  • frontal cortex
  • neostriatum
  • nucleus accumbens
  • place navigation
  • rat
  • spatial learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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