The vestibular system contributes to performance of various spatial memory tasks, but few studies have attempted to disambiguate the roles of the semicircular canals and otolith organs in this performance. This study tested the otolithic contribution to spatial working and reference memory by evaluating the performance of otoconia-deficient tilted mice on a radial arm maze and a Barnes maze. One radial arm maze task provided both intramaze and extramaze cues, whereas the other task provided only extramaze cues. The Barnes maze task provided only extramaze cues. On the radial arm maze, tilted mice performed similar to control mice when intramaze cues were available, but committed more working and reference memory errors than control mice when only extramaze cues were available. On the Barnes maze task, control and tilted mice showed similar latency, distance, and errors during acquisition training. On the subsequent probe trial, both groups spent the greatest percentage of time in the goal quadrant, indicating they were able to use extramaze cues to guide their search. Overall, these results suggest signals originating in the otolith organs contribute to spatial memory, but are not necessary for all aspects of spatial performance.
vestibular; spatial orientation; spatial memory; otolith organs; radial arm maze
Ryan M. Yoder and Seth L. Kirby (2014).
Otoconia-deficient mice show selective spatial deficits. Hippocampus.