Rats with hippocampal lesion show impaired learning and memory in the ziggurat task: a new task to evaluate spatial behavior.Behav Brain Res. 2008 May 16; 189(1):17-31.BB
Spatial tasks are widely used to determine the function of limbic system structures in rats. The present study used a new task designed to evaluate spatial behavior, the ziggurat task (ZT), to examine the performance of rats with widespread hippocampal damage induced by N-methyl-d-aspartic acid (NMDA). The task consisted of an open field containing 16 identical ziggurats (pyramid shaped towers) arranged at equal distances. One of the ziggurats was baited with a food reward. The task required rats to navigate through the open field by using a combination of distal and/or proximal cues in order to locate the food reward. The ability to acquire and recall the location of the goal (baited) ziggurat was tested in consecutive training sessions of eight trials per day for 10 days. The location of the goal ziggurat was changed every second day, requiring the rats to learn a total of five different locations. Several parameters, including latency to find the target, distance traveled, the number of visits to non-baited ziggurats (errors), and the number of returns were used as indices of learning and memory. Control rats showed a significant decrease in distance traveled and reduced latency in locating the goal ziggurat across trials and days, suggesting that they learned and remembered the location of the goal ziggurat. Interestingly, the hippocampal-damaged group moved significantly faster, and traveled longer distances compared to the control group. Significant differences were observed between these groups with respect to the number of errors and returns on test days. Day 11 served as probe day, in which no food reward was given. The controls spent more time searching for the food in the previous training quadrant compared to the hippocampal group. The findings demonstrate that the ZT is a sensitive and efficient dry task for measuring hippocampus-dependent spatial performance in rats requiring little training and not associated with some of the disadvantages of water tasks.