Spatial and nonspatial Morris maze learning: Impaired behavioral flexibility in mice with ectopias located in the prefrontal cortex

Lynn A. Hyde, Amy Jo Stavnezer, Heather A. Bimonte, Gordon F. Sherman, Victor H. Denenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


About half of BXSB/MpJ-Yaa (BXSB) mice have neocortical ectopias (misplaced clusters of neurons located in layer I of cortex). Previous behavioral studies have suggested that ectopic mice have superior spatial, but equivalent nonspatial, reference memory learning. However, since spatial and nonspatial learning were not assessed in the same apparatus and with the same testing procedure, it is unclear if this conclusion is accurate. We have created a new nonspatial Morris maze for mice that differs from the spatial task only in the type of cues that must be utilized to efficiently locate the platform (intra-maze black/white patterns vs. extra-maze room cues) and does not differ in the level of task complexity or the presence of objects within the maze. Ectopic mice were very good in utilizing extra-maze cues when learning the spatial version and in utilizing intra-maze cues when learning the nonspatial version of the Morris maze, while non-ectopics were not, suggesting that ectopics have superior spatial and nonspatial reference memory. Ectopias in BXSB mice are usually located in prefrontal and/or motor cortex. The prefrontal cortex is involved in behavioral flexibility (e.g. being able to easily switch from using spatial to nonspatial cues). Only ectopic mice with ectopias specifically located in the prefrontal region of cortex demonstrated difficulty switching from using extra-maze to intra-maze cues and vice versa. Thus, the presence of one or more ectopias in the prefrontal region of cortex disrupted one of the normal functions of the prefrontal cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-259
Number of pages13
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 18 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Cued
  • Inbred mice
  • Intra-maze
  • Nonspatial
  • Set-shifting
  • Strategy switching
  • Transfer of training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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