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Cerebellar Contribution to Spatial Event Processing: Morris Water Maze and T-maze

Authors

  • Laura Petrosini,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychology, University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’, Via dei Marsi 78, 00185 Rome
    2. Institute of Psychology, CNR, Rome, Italy
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  • Marco Molinari,

    1. Institute of Neurology of Catholic University, Rome
    2. Institute of Psychology, CNR, Rome, Italy
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  • Maria E. Dell'Anna

    1. Institute of Neurology of Catholic University, Rome
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    • 4

      University of Udine, Institute of Neurology, Piazza S. Maria della Misericordia 1, 33100, Udine, Italy


Laura Petrosini

Abstract

Recently, a cognitive function of cerebellar networks has been challenging the traditional view of the cerebellum as a motor control centre. Among the cognitive abilities reported to be affected by cerebellar deficits is the capacity to solve a spatial problem. We investigated the influence of a cerebellar lesion on spatial abilities by behavioural analysis of rats that had undergone surgical hemicerebellectomy (HCb; HCbed rats). Experiments were performed with a Morris water maze (MWM) and a water T-maze in both cue and place versions (visible or hidden platform respectively). Results indicate a severe impairment in coping with spatial information in all phases of MWM testing as well as in the T-maze paradigm. However, if the MWM cue phase was prolonged, HCbed rats displayed some ability to learn platform position, although at a level significantly different from controls. They succeeded in finding the platform, even in a pure place paradigm, such as finding a hidden platform with the starting points sequentially changed. Retention testing was also performed, demonstrating that HCb affects acquisition but not retention of spatial information. HCbed animals exhibit such disrupted exploration behaviour that they can display only peripheral circling, and they can acquire spatial relations only when proximal cues are available. Furthermore, in all phases of testing, platform finding for HCbed animals is essentially based on place strategies. Thus, a specific pattern of spatial behaviour, markedly different from that displayed following hippocampal or cortical lesions, characterizes cerebellar lesioned rats. These results are discussed taking into account the role in procedural learning recently assigned to cerebellar networks, demonstrating that the cerebellar circuits represent the keystone of the procedural components of spatial event processing.

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