A single unstable visual cue impairs spatial learning in a water maze
Martin GM., Walker KM., Skinner DM.
The role of a prominent visual cue (a light) in spatial learning was examined. Rats were trained to locate a hidden platform in a 4-arm radial water maze. For some rats the light predicted platform location. For other rats the light moved from trial to trial and did not predict platform location. While the predictive light did not facilitate performance above that seen in rats trained without a light, the moving light significantly impaired performance. In a second experiment, the temporal parameters of the moving light were manipulated. For one group the light was visible for the entire trial. In a second group the light was visible only before the rats reached the platform and in a third group the light was visible only after the rats reached the platform. The moving light impaired performance only when it was presented for the entire trial. When rats were subsequently retrained with a new platform location and a moving light in the familiar room, the light did not impair performance in any of the groups. We suggest that the prominent visual cue served as a directional cue, that competed with other directional cues, in the unfamiliar environment and interfered with performance. © 2002 Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.