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Cerebellum and spatial cognition in goldfish

Behavioural Brain Research
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.bbr.2013.10.039
  • Goldfish
  • Cerebellum
  • Spatial Learning
  • “Hole-Board” Task
  • Vertebrate Brain Evolution


Abstract The cerebellum of mammals has recently been linked to spatial navigation, as indicated by the results of a number of studies performed in animal models with cerebellar abnormalities. However, nothing is known about the contribution of this structure to spatial cognition in other vertebrate groups such as teleost fish. To investigate the involvement of the teleostean cerebellum in navigation, sham-operated (Sh) and cerebellum-ablated (Cb) goldfish were trained in a “hole-board” task in which they had to locate the baited feeder within a 5×5 feeder matrix surrounded by visual cues. Cb goldfish were significantly impaired in the acquisition and performance of the task, as revealed by their low spatial accuracy, the number of errors committed, and the stereotyped searching pattern exhibited relative to Sh goldfish. Probe tests, performed during the final training sessions, showed that Cb animals could not integrate experimental cues into an internal representation of the environment (as an allocentric strategy would require) and they resorted to a guiding strategy to locate the goal. The results of this experiment demonstrated that the cerebellum might have a modulatory role in the declarative component of navigation by which an animal develops an internal spatial representation. Our results constitute the first evidence of the involvement of the fish cerebellum in spatial cognition. Our results also suggest that the cognitive functions of the cerebellum may have appeared early in vertebrate evolution and been conserved throughout the phylogenetic history of extant vertebrates.

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