Visual Associative Learning: Searching for Behaviorally Relevant Brain Structures in Toads

  • Thomas Finkenstädt


Prey-recognition in toads can be modified by classical conditioning. When toads are fed several times on mealworms (unconditioned stimulus, US) presented with the experimenter’s hand covered by a black glove (conditioned stimulus, CS), they fmally respond to the CS alone with the conditioned response CR, prey-catching. Toads were trained to respond to a large (80 × 80 mm2) black moving square (subserving as a generalized CS) with prey-catching. Following 2DG injection, the local cerebral metabolic effects of training, were quantitatively compared to naive animals Our major fording was the differential metabolic effect produced by the same square shaped stimulus before and after conditioning. Associative learning not only changes metabolism in various cerebral structures of the visual pathway, but also in certain non-visual areas of the forebrain. Results of lesions in the medial pallium (MP) and the lateral amygdala (AL) further support the idea of the importance of these “limbic” structures in memory representation: Toads with bilateral ablation of the ventral MP prior to or post conditioning proved to be unable to show the CR. These fmdings are in line with the hypothesis that associative learning represents a spatially distributed property of neuronal maps, which may be demonstrated in any structure that meets the appropriate requirements of time and space convergence of CS and US inputs. The learning-related metabolic changes in the visual pathway let one assume that visual circuits cannot simply be regarded as mere input channels for the CS. Non-visual cerebral structures, changing metabolism in this context, may be regarded as part of a neural system critically involved in establishing the memory trace of the particular CS in the amphibian brain.


Optic Tectum Medial Septum Pattern Discrimination Interocular Transfer Lateral Amygdala 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Finkenstädt
    • 1
  1. 1.Abteilung Neuroethologie, Fachbereich Biologie/ChemieUniversität KasselKasselFR Germany

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