Morris Water Maze

Understanding the Morris Water Maze: A Classic Lab Test for Spatial Learning and Memory

If you’ve ever visited a lab studying learning and memory, there’s a good chance you’ve seen or heard of the Morris Water Maze. The Morris Water Maze is one of the most widely used lab tests for measuring spatial learning and memory in animals, and it has helped uncover key insights about the brain mechanisms involved in these processes.

The Basics of the Morris Water Maze

The Morris Water Maze consists of a large circular tank filled with water that is opaque with non-toxic white paint. A hidden platform is placed somewhere inside the tank, just below the surface of the water.

The test involves placing a rodent in the water and measuring how quickly it can find and climb onto the platform. At first, the rodent is placed on the platform and allowed to swim for a short time. Then, the rodent is removed from the platform and placed into the water at a random location. The rodent has to use spatial cues, such as those around the room or on the wall, to swim to the platform.

The amount of time the rodent takes to find the platform is recorded, as well as how often it crosses the area where the platform is located. Over the course of several trials, the rodent should learn the location of the hidden platform and become faster at finding it.

Key Findings and Applications

The Morris Water Maze is a classic test for evaluating spatial learning and memory, and its results have been replicated across diverse animal species.

The test has yielded important insights into the brain mechanisms involved in spatial learning and memory. For example, the hippocampus, a brain region known for its involvement in spatial navigation and memory, has been shown to be critical for learning the location of the hidden platform in the Morris Water Maze.

Additionally, the test has been used to study the effects of various drugs or experimental treatments on memory. For example, researchers have used the Morris Water Maze to evaluate the effects of drugs that enhance or impair memory.


Overall, the Morris Water Maze is a versatile and well-validated lab test that is used extensively to study spatial learning and memory. As researchers continue to explore this fascinating aspect of the brain, it will likely remain a key tool in their arsenal for discovering new insights.