Behavior Genetics

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 55–68 | Cite as

Differences between inbred strains of mice in Morris water maze performance

  • Margaret Upchurch
  • Jeanne M. Wehner


Four inbred strains of mice, BALB/cByJ, C3H/2Ibg, C57BL/6Ibg, and DBA/2Ibg, were tested for their learning ability in the Morris water maze. Two forms of learning were examined: cue learning, in which the mice were required to swim toward a submerged platform marked by a proximal visual cue; and place learning, in which the animals were required to use distal visual cues to find a submerged platform. C3H and BALB mice, which lack good visual acuity, were incapable of either form of learning. Both C57 and DBA mice were capable of cue learning, but DBA mice performed poorly at the place learning task. A selective impairment in place learning is typical of rats with disrupted hippocampal function. A similar impairment in DBA mice may indicate that abnormal hippocampal function exists under baseline conditions in this strain.

Key Words

inbred strains spatial learning water maze hippocampal function visual acuity 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Albanese, A., Gozzo, S., Iacopino, C., and Altavista, M. C. (1985). Strain-dependent variations in the number of forebrain cholinergic neurons.Brain Res. 334:334–384.Google Scholar
  2. Ammassari-Teule, M., and Gozzo, S. (1982). Selective effects of hippocampal and frontal cortex lesions on a spatial learning problem in two inbred strains of mice.Behav. Brain Res. 5:189–197.Google Scholar
  3. Barber, R. P., Vaughn, J. E., Wimer, R. E., and Wimer, C. C. (1974). Genetically associated variations in the distribution of dentate granule cell synapses upon the pyramidal cell dendrites in mouse hippocampus.J. Comp. Neurol. 156:417–434.Google Scholar
  4. Bovet, D., Bovet-Nitti, F., and Oliverio, A. (1969). Genetic aspects of learning and memory in mice.Science 163:139–149.Google Scholar
  5. Carran, A. B. (1969). Biometrics of reversal learning in mice. I. Effects of ITI and strain.Psychon. Sci. 16:248–249.Google Scholar
  6. Cazala, P. (1978). Extinction du comportement d'autostimulation chez trois lignées de souris consanguines: Influence du délai séparant la péroide de renforcement de la séance d'extinction.Physiol. Behav. 21:701–704.Google Scholar
  7. Elias, M. F. (1970). Differences in reversal learning between two inbred mouse strains.Psychon. Sci. 20:179–180.Google Scholar
  8. Elias, M. F., and Simmerman, S. J. (1971). Proactive and retroactive effects of diethyl ether on spatial discrimination learning in inbred mouse strains DBA/2J and C57B/6J.Psychon. Sci. 22:299–301.Google Scholar
  9. Gage, F. H., and Björklund, A. (1986). Cholinergic septal grafts into the hippocampal formation improve spatial learning and memory in aged rats by an atropine-sensitive mechanism.J. Neurosci. 6:2837–2847.Google Scholar
  10. Halliwell, R. F., and Morris, R. G. M. (1986). Intrahippocampal microinfusion of an N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist (AP5) blocks LTPin vivo and impairs spatial learning in rats.Soc. Neurosci. Abstr. 12:519.Google Scholar
  11. Henderson, N. D. (1972). Relative effects of early rearing environment and genotype on discrimination learning in house mice.J. Comp. Physiol. Psychol. 79:243–253.Google Scholar
  12. Kolb, B., Pittman, K., Sutherland, R. J., and Whishaw, I. Q. (1982). Dissociation of the contributions of the prefrontal cortex and dorsomedial thalamic nucleus to spatially guided behavior in the rat.Behav. Brain Res. 6:365–378.Google Scholar
  13. Kolb, B., Sutherland, R. J., and Whishaw, I. Q. (1983). A comparison of the contributions of the frontal and parietal association cortex to spatial localization in rats.Behav. Neurosci. 97:13–27.Google Scholar
  14. Lindner, M. D., and Schallert, T. (1987). Aging and atropine effects on spatial navigation.Behav. Neurosci. (in press).Google Scholar
  15. Mandel, P., Ayad, G., Hermetet, J. C., and Ebel, A. (1974). Correlation between choline acetyltransferase activity and learning ability in different mice strains and their offspring.Brain Res. 72:65–70.Google Scholar
  16. Marks, M. J., Patinkin, D. M., Artman, L. D., Burch, J. B., and Collins, A. C. (1981). Genetic influences on cholinergic drug response.Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav. 15:271–279.Google Scholar
  17. Morris, R. G. M. (1981). Spatial localization does not require the presence of local cues.Learn. Motivat. 12:239–260.Google Scholar
  18. Morris, R. G. M., Garrud, P., Rawlins, J. N. P., and O'Keefe, J. (1982). Place navigation impaired in rats with hippocampal lesions.Nature 297:681–683.Google Scholar
  19. Morris, R. G. M., Anderson, E., Lynch, G. S., and Baudry, M. (1986). Selective impairment of learning and blockade of long-term potentiation by anN-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonist, AP5.Nature 319:774–776.Google Scholar
  20. Oliverio, A., Castellano, C., and Messeri, P. (1973). Genotype-dependent effects of septal lesions on different types of learning in the mouse.J. Comp. Physiol. Psychol. 82:240–246.Google Scholar
  21. Padeh, B., Wahlsten, D., and DeFries, J. C. (1974). Operant discrimination learning and operant bar-pressing rates in inbred and heterogeneous laboratory mice.Behav. Genet. 4:383–393.Google Scholar
  22. Reinstein, D. K., DeBoissiere, T., Robinson, N., and Wurtman, R. J. (1983). Radial maze performance in three strains of mice: Role of fimbria/fornix.Brain Res. 263:172–176.Google Scholar
  23. Schenk, F., and Morris, R. G. M. (1985). Dissociation between components of spatial memory in rats after recovery from the effects of retrohippocampal lesions.Exp. Brain Res. 58:11–28.Google Scholar
  24. Schwegler, H., and Lipp, H. P. (1983). Hereditary correlations between neuronal circuitry and behavior: Correlations between the proportions of hippocampal synaptic fields in the regio inferior and two-way avoidance in mice and rats.Behav. Brain Res. 7:1–38.Google Scholar
  25. Smolen, A., Smolen, T. N., Oh, E. I., and Collins, A. C. (1986). A strain comparison of physiological and locomotor responses of mice to diisopropylfluorophosphate.Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav. 24:1077–1082.Google Scholar
  26. Sprott, R. L., and Symons, J. P. (1974). Operant performance in inbred mice.Bull. Psychon. Soc. 4:46–48.Google Scholar
  27. Sutherland, R. J., Kolb, B., and Whishaw, I. Q. (1982a). Spatial mapping: Definitive disruption by hippocampal or medial frontal cortical damage in the rat.Neurosci. Lett. 31:271–276.Google Scholar
  28. Sutherland, R. J., Whishaw, I. Q., and Regehr, J. C. (1982b). Cholinergic receptor blockade impairs spatial localization by use of distal cues in the rat.J. Comp. Physiol. Psychol. 96:563–573.Google Scholar
  29. Sutherland, R. J., Whishaw, I. Q., and Kolb, B. (1983). A behavioural analysis of spatial localization following electrolytic, kainate- or colchicine-induced damage to the hippocampal formation in the rat.Behav. Brain Res. 7:133–153.Google Scholar
  30. Upchurch, M., and Wehner, J. M. (1987). Effects of chronic diisopropylfluorophosphate treatment on spatial learning in mice.Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav. 27:143–151.Google Scholar
  31. van Abeelen, J. H. F., and Boersma, H. J. L. M. (1984). A genetically controlled hippocampal transmitter system regulating exploratory behavior in mice.J. Neurogenet. 1:153–158.Google Scholar
  32. Wahlsten, D. (1972). Genetic experiments with animal learning: A critical review.Behav. Biol. 7:143–182.Google Scholar
  33. Whishaw, I. Q. (1985). Cholinergic receptor blockade in the rat impairs locale but not taxon strategies for place navigation in a swimming pool.Behav. Neurosci. 99:979–1005.Google Scholar
  34. Whishaw, I. Q., and Dunnett, S. B. (1985). Dopamine depletion, stimulation or blockade in the rat disrupts spatial navigation and locomotion dependent upon beacon or distal cues.Behav. Brain Res. 18:11–29.Google Scholar
  35. Whishaw, I. Q., and Kolb, B. (1984). Decortication abolishes place but not cue learning in rats.Behav. Brain Res. 11:123–134.Google Scholar
  36. Whishaw, I. Q., O'Connor, W. T., and Dunnett, S. B. (1985). Disruption of central cholinergic systems in the rat by basal forebrain lesions or atropine: Effects on feeding, sensorimotor behaviour, locomotor activity, and spatial navigation.Behav. Brain Res. 17:103–115.Google Scholar
  37. Wimer, R., and Weller, S. (1965). Evaluation of a visual discrimination task for the analysis of the genetics of a mouse behavior.Percept. Motor Skills 20:203–208.Google Scholar
  38. Wong, P. T. P., Lee, C. T., and Novier, F. H. (1971). The partial reinforcement effect (PRE) sustained through extinction and continuous reinforcement in two strains of inbred mice.Psychon. Sci. 22:141–143.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margaret Upchurch
    • 1
  • Jeanne M. Wehner
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for Behavioral GeneticsUniversity of ColoradoBoulder
  2. 2.School of PharmacyUniversity of ColoradoBoulder

Personalised recommendations