Peripheral and Cerebral Asymmetries in the Rat

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Science  17 Oct 1997:
Vol. 278, Issue 5337, pp. 483-486
DOI: 10.1126/science.278.5337.483

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Rats learn a novel foraging pattern better with their right-side whiskers than with their left-side whiskers. They also learn better with the left cerebral hemisphere than with the right hemisphere. Rotating an already learned maze relative to the external environment most strongly reduces right-whisker performance; starting an already learned maze at a different location most strongly reduces left-whisker performance. These results suggest that the right-periphery–left-hemisphere system accesses a map-like representation of the foraging problem, whereas the left-periphery–right-hemisphere system accesses a rote path. Thus, as in humans, functional asymmetries in rats can be elicited by both peripheral and cortical manipulation, and each hemisphere makes qualitatively distinct contributions to a complex natural behavior.

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