The anterior thalamic region is intimately linked anatomically and functionally with the hippocampus, which is critical for various forms of spatial learning. Rats with lesions to the anterior thalamic nuclei and a control group were trained on a visual–spatial conditional associative learning task in which they had to learn to go to one of two locations depending on the particular visual cue presented on each trial; the rats approached the cues from different directions. The animals were subsequently tested on a spatial working memory task, the eight-arm radial maze. Performance on both these tasks had previously been shown to be impaired by hippocampal lesions. Rats with anterior thalamic damage were able to acquire the conditional associative task at a rate comparable to that of the control animals, but were impaired on the radial maze task. The finding of a dissociation between the effects of lesions of the anterior thalamic nuclei on two different classes of behavior known to be associated with hippocampal function suggest that while different neural stations within the extended hippocampal circuit may all play a role in spatial learning, the role of each of these regions in such learning may be more selective than previously considered. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.