Spatial working memory deficits in GluA1 AMPA receptor subunit knockout mice reflect impaired short-term habituation: evidence for Wagner's dual-process memory model.
Genetically modified mice, lacking the GluA1 AMPA receptor subunit, are impaired on spatial working memory tasks, but display normal acquisition of spatial reference memory tasks. One explanation for this dissociation is that working memory, win-shift performance engages a GluA1-dependent, non-associative, short-term memory process through which animals choose relatively novel arms in preference to relatively familiar options. In contrast, spatial reference memory, as exemplified by the Morris water maze task, reflects a GluA1-independent, associative, long-term memory mechanism. These results can be accommodated by Wagner's dual-process model of memory in which short and long-term memory mechanisms exist in parallel and, under certain circumstances, compete with each other. According to our analysis, GluA1(-/-) mice lack short-term memory for recently experienced spatial stimuli. One consequence of this impairment is that these stimuli should remain surprising and thus be better able to form long-term associative representations. Consistent with this hypothesis, we have recently shown that long-term spatial memory for recently visited locations is enhanced in GluA1(-/-) mice, despite impairments in hippocampal synaptic plasticity. Taken together, these results support a role for GluA1-containing AMPA receptors in short-term habituation, and in modulating the intensity or perceived salience of stimuli.