Rats that had recovered from pyrithiamine-induced thiamine deficiency (PTD) were trained on tasks motivated by escape from mild footshock. On postmortem examination, the PTD model showed two consistent lesions: a bilaterally symmetrical lesion of the medial thalamus, which was centered on the internal medullary lamina (IML), and a lesion centered on the medial mammillary nuclei. PTD rats with IML lesions were impaired in learning a spatial nonmatching-to-sample (NMTS) task that was mastered without error by controls and PTD animals without IML lesions. These same animals were able to perform as well as controls on discrimination tasks based on either place or visual (light-dark) cues, although they made more errors than controls in reaching criterion in the initial place discrimination problem. These findings are consistent with findings from appetitively motivated tasks that PTD rats with IML lesions have an impaired capacity for working memory but not for reference memory.