Comparison of spatial learning in the partially baited radial-arm maze task between commonly used rat strains: Wistar, Spargue-Dawley, Long-Evans, and outcrossed Wistar/Sprague-Dawley

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Gokcek-Sarac C., Wesierska M., Jakubowska-Dogru E.

LEARNING & BEHAVIOR, vol.43, no.1, pp.83-94, 2015 (Journal Indexed in SCI) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 43 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2015
  • Doi Number: 10.3758/s13420-014-0163-9
  • Title of Journal : LEARNING & BEHAVIOR
  • Page Numbers: pp.83-94


Strain-related differences in animals' cognitive ability affect the outcomes of experiments and may be responsible for discrepant results obtained by different research groups. Therefore, behavioral phenotyping of laboratory animals belonging to different strains is important. The aim of the present study was to compare the variation in allothetic visuospatial learning in most commonly used laboratory rat strains: inbred Wistar (W) and Sprague-Dawley (SD), outcrossed Wistar/Sprague-Dawley (W/SD), and outbred Long Evans (LE) rats. All rats were trained to the arbitrary performance criterion of 83 % correct responses in the partially baited 12-arm radial maze allowing for simultaneous evaluation of both working and reference memory. In the present study, testing albino versus pigmented and inbred versus outcrossed rats revealed significant strain-dependent differences with the inbred SD rats manifesting lower performance on all learning measures compared to other strains. On the other hand, the outcrossed W/SD rats showed a lower frequency of reference memory errors and faster rate of task acquisition compared to both LE and W rats, with W rats showing a lower frequency of working memory errors compared to other strains. In conclusion, albinism apparently did not reduce the animals' performance in the allothetic visuospatial learning task, while outcrossing improved the spatial learning. A differential effect of strain on the contribution of each error type to the animals' overall performance was observed. The strain-dependent differences were more pronounced between subpopulations of learning-deficient individuals ("poor" learners), and generally the reference memory errors contributed more to the final behavioral output than did the working memory errors.