The retrosplenial cortex, which is situated in a critical position in the flow of information between the hippocampal formation and the neocortex, contributes to spatial memory, but no studies have examined the distinct contribution of each area of the retrosplenial cortex to this behavior. This study tests the hypothesis that the two areas of the retrosplenial granular cortex play distinct roles in spatial learning and memory. Adult, male Sprague-Dawley rats with small, bilateral lesions (ibotenic acid) of the retrosplenial granular cortex were tested for 2 weeks in a repeated acquisition water maze task. Compared to controls, rats with complete lesions of the retrosplenial granular b cortex (Rgb) were slightly, but significantly impaired, whereas rats with lesions of the retrosplenial granular a cortex (Rga) displayed no impairment. Further, the Rgb-lesioned (but not the Rga-lesioned) group was impaired in the probe trials at the end of the first week of training. All animals were tested in the same paradigm for a second week to determine if the learning and memory impairment in the Rgb-lesioned rats simply reflected "delayed learning." All animals improved their maze performance during the second week of testing, but the Rgb-lesioned group still had no preference for the correct quadrant in the probe trial. Together, these data indicate that Rgb plays a small, independent role in spatial learning and memory. Further, although selective lesions of Rga or Rgb do not cause a large deficit in learning, concomitant destruction of both areas causes a much greater impairment in learning than would be predicted from their independent contributions. The data highlight the unique and complex contribution of each area of the retrosplenial cortex to behavior. © 2004 Published by Elsevier B.V.