In recent years, the contribution that different glutamate receptor subtypes and subunits make to spatial learning and memory has been studied extensively using genetically modified mice in which key proteins are knocked out. This has revealed dissociations between different aspects of spatial memory that were not previously apparent from lesion studies. For example, studies with GluA1 AMPAR [AMPA (α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid) receptor] subunit-knockout mice have revealed the presence of a GluA1-dependent, non-associative short-term memory mechanism that is important for performance on spatial working memory tasks, and a GluA1-independent, long-term associative memory mechanism which underlies performance on spatial reference memory tasks. Within this framework we have also studied the contributions of different GluN2-containing NMDARs [NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptors] to spatial memory. Studies with GluN2 NMDAR mutants have revealed different contributions from GluN2A- and GluN2B-containing NMDARs to spatial learning. Furthermore, comparison of forebrain- and hippocampus-specific GluN2B-knockout mice has demonstrated that both hippocampal and extra-hippocampal NMDARs make important contributions to spatial memory performance.

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