Spatial orientation of laboratory animals is often considered as a model of human higher cognitive functions. Roughly ten years ago, a novel behavioral task, active allothetic place avoidance (AAPA), was designed in our laboratory and our efforts to intimately investigate this task date back to this time.
In this task, animals avoid an unmarked shock sector defined in a coordinate frame of experimental room while moving over a rotating arena. It was established that besides navigation with respect to a hidden place, the task requires cognitive coordination, usually explained as an ability to separate spatial stimuli from the environment into coherent representation of an arena and a room, and to select the room frame as the only relevant one for efficient navigation.
We studied the effects of specific receptor antagonists on the behavior of animals in this task and it was found that changes in spatial efficiency are often accompanied by alterations in overall locomotor activity. In this regard, the task has an advantage of simultaneous assessment of both place navigation and locomotor behavior. The analysis of locomotion was found to be important for exclusion of a more general impairment of animals after an experimental manipulation. The results suggest that at least in some cases, the changed locomotion and decreased spatial efficiency occur concurrently, but without a mutual causal relationship. The presentation will summarize the existing evidence about modulation of behavior in this spatial task.
Supported by grants GACR 309/07/0341, IGA MZ CR NR/9178 and MSMT centers 1M0517 a LC554.