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The beneficial effect of prior experience on the acquisition of spatial memory in rats with CA1, but not large hippocampal lesions: a possible role for schema formation


Prior experience has been shown to improve learning in both humans and animals, but it is unclear what aspects of recent experience are necessary to produce beneficial effects. Here, we examined the capacity of rats with complete hippocampal lesions, restricted CA1 lesions, or sham surgeries to benefit from prior experience. Animals were tested in two different spatial tasks in the watermaze, the conventional watermaze task and delayed match-to-position. The two lesions impaired performance in both tasks when rats had no prior experience. However, when given prior training with one task, CA1 lesions had no effect on performance in the other task. In contrast, rats with hippocampal lesions did not benefit from prior training. The findings show that prior experience can benefit learning even when the previously learned task and a new task are quite different. The concept of schema may be useful for understanding the benefits of prior experience.

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