The anterior thalamic nuclei appear to play an important role in learning and memory. Connectionally and structurally, the lateral dorsal nucleus is similar to the anterior nuclei. This study tested the hypothesis that the laterodorsal thalamic nucleus (LD) also contributes to these functions. Adult Sprague-Dawley rats received bilateral ibotenic acid lesions of LD, and 2 weeks later the rats were tested in a repeated acquisition water maze task. The control groups displayed a short final escape latency and showed a preference for the correct quadrant in the probe trial. Rats with a lesion restricted to LD (LDL) were mildly impaired in the task, but rats with lesions that destroyed LD and also significantly (50%) damaged the adjacent anterior thalamic nuclei (LDL+) were severely impaired, displaying no improvement in performing the spatial task. In a second experiment, training in the same paradigm for 2 weeks resulted in improved final performance by LDL and control rats but not by LDL+ rats. These findings support the hypothesis that together with the anterior thalamic nuclei, LD plays a role in spatial learning and memory. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.