Learning and memory after adrenalectomy‐induced hippocampal dentate granule cell degeneration in the rat

John N. Armstrong, Dan C. McIntyre*, Simon Neubort, Robert S. Sloviter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Adrenalectomy (ADX) of normal adult rats causes selective hippocampal dentate granule cell degeneration that is prevented by corticosterone. The ability to destroy this one hippocampal cell type noninvasively made it possible to address the role of the dentate granule cells in learning and memory. Four months after ADX, 31 of 45 rats failed to show obvious granule cell loss and displayed behavior in the Morris water maze that was similar to 16 sham‐operated control rats and 16 ADX rats maintained on corticosterone throughout the study. Conversely, 14 of the 45 ADX rats experienced a loss of granule cells that varied from minimal to extensive. Although there were no obvious differences between groups in motoric and motivational characteristics or search strategies, ADX rats with moderate to extensive granule cell loss acquired place learning slightly slower than controls or ADX rats with minimal or no obvious cell loss. Furthermore, the ADX rats with moderate to extensive cell loss were temporarily impaired following alteration of either intramaze or extramaze cues compared to controls. In contrast, the rats with granule cell loss remembered an old place and learned a new place as quickly as controls. These results suggest that a normal complement of dentate granule cells may not be necessary for the acquisition or retention of spatial information in the Morris water maze.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-371
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • behavior
  • dentate gyrus
  • hippocampus
  • spatial learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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