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The swimming control group in spatial reference memory task: analysis of its motor cortex activity

S. Cid-Duarte, A. Gutiérrez-Menéndez, C. Zorzo, J. L. Arias, M. Méndez


Spatial reference memory in rodents is commonly performed in the Morris Water Maze (MWM). The use of control groups on this task is essential in order to subtract brain activity not related to learning. To study the functional contribution of selected brain areas, we assessed neuronal metabolic activity thorough quantitative cytochrome c oxidase histochemistry. This technique allows the measurement of the oxidative metabolism responsible for ATP production. Our objective is to analyse if the swimming control group is an optimal control for the evaluation of spatial reference memory task. To do so, we explore the behaviour in the MWM and the neuronal metabolic activity of motor cortex and its layers, in addition to hippocampus. For this purpose, three groups of Wistar rats were used: reference memory group, swimming control, and cage control. The behavioural results show significant differences between the experimental group and the swimming control group in time spent in the quadrants and swimming speed. In addition, higher neuronal hippocampal metabolic activity (CA1 subfield) was found in the experimental when compared to both controls. However, there are no differences in the motor cortex neuronal metabolic activity of the groups. Therefore, we can assume that the swimming control group effectively isolates the motor activity during the swim and the behavioural results are due to the hippocampal activity related to learning itself and not the physical activity performed in the labyrinth.


Morris water maze; rat; swimming control; motor cortex; cytochrome c oxidase

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