Impaired discrimination learning in mice lacking the NMDA receptor NR2A subunit.
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N-Methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) mediate certain forms of synaptic plasticity and learning. We used a touchscreen system to assess NR2A subunit knockout mice (KO) for (1) pairwise visual discrimination and reversal learning and (2) acquisition and extinction of an instrumental response requiring no pairwise discrimination. NR2A KO mice exhibited significantly retarded discrimination learning. Performance on reversal was impaired in NR2A KO mice during the learning phase of the task; with no evidence of heightened perseverative responses. Acquisition and extinction of an instrumental behavior requiring no pairwise discrimination was normal in NR2A KO mice. The present findings demonstrate a significant and selective deficit in discrimination learning following loss of NR2A.