Dorsal hippocampus is necessary for novel learning but sufficient for subsequent similar learning

Szu-Han Wang, Peter S B Finnie, Oliver Hardt, Karim Nader

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Our current understanding of brain mechanisms involved in learning and memory has been derived largely from studies using experimentally naïve animals. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that not all identified mechanisms may generalize to subsequent learning. For example, N-methyl-D-aspartate glutamate (NMDA) receptors in the dorsal hippocampus are required for contextual fear conditioning in naïve animals but not in animals previously trained in a similar task. Here we investigated how animals learn contextual fear conditioning for a second time-a response which is not due to habituation or generalization. We found that dorsal hippocampus infusions of voltage-dependent calcium channel blockers or the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) agonist impaired the first, not the second contextual learning. Only manipulations of the entire hippocampus led to an impairment in second learning. Specifically, inactivation of either the dorsal or ventral hippocampus caused the remaining portion of the hippocampus to acquire and consolidate the second learning. Thus, dorsal hippocampus seems necessary for initial contextual fear conditioning, but either the dorsal or ventral hippocampus is sufficient for subsequent conditioning in a different context. Together, these findings suggest that prior training experiences can change how the hippocampus processes subsequent similar learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2157-2170
Number of pages14
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012


  • Animals
  • Models, Psychological
  • Fear
  • Hippocampus
  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Protein Synthesis Inhibitors
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Verapamil
  • 2-Amino-5-phosphonovalerate
  • Muscimol
  • Conditioning, Classical
  • Freezing Reaction, Cataleptic
  • GABA Agonists
  • Anisomycin
  • Models, Neurological
  • Retention (Psychology)
  • Electroshock
  • Amnesia
  • Male
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists


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