Neonatal hippocampal lesions facilitate biconditional contextual discrimination learning in monkeys.

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This study examined whether selective neonatal hippocampal lesions in monkeys (Macaca mulatta), which left the surrounding cortical areas (parahippocampal cortex) intact, affect contextual learning and memory compared with controls. Monkeys were tested with an automated touch-screen apparatus so that stimuli and contextual cues could be manipulated independently of one another. The data suggest that animals with neonatal hippocampal lesions have sparing of function with regard to contextual learning and memory when (a) contextual information is irrelevant or (b) relevant for good discrimination performance, and (c) when transferring a contextual rule to new discriminations. These findings are at odds with studies examining contextual learning and memory in monkeys with selective adult-onset hippocampal lesions, and those with nonselective neonatal hippocampal lesions, which have demonstrated impairment in contextual learning and memory. Therefore, the sparing of function seen in this study may be attributable to the early nature of the damage and the plastic nature of the infant brain, as well as the intact medial temporal lobe cortical areas as a result of the lesion methodology. Specifically, by removing the hippocampus early in life, before it has begun to function, the parahippocampal (TH/TF) and perirhinal cortices and its interactions with the lateral prefrontal cortex may be able to support context processing throughout life. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)