Arbitrary associations in animals: what can paired associate recall in rats tell us about the neural basis of episodic memory? Theoretical comment on Kesner, Hunsaker, & Warthen (2008)

R. F. Langston, E. R. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

Abstract

Detailed memories for personally experienced unique events from an individual’s past can be triggered, often effortlessly, when that individual is exposed to a person, place or other stimulus that was present during the original event. The aim of the latest paper by Kesner et al (2008, this issue) is to understand the neural basis of memory encoding that supports this cued recall of so-called episodic memories. Kesner and colleagues make novel use of an object-place paired-associate task for rats designed previously by these authors (Hunsaker et al, 2006) to provide evidence for a critical role of dorsal CA3 in certain aspects of episodic memory encoding. Using a one-trial cued recall task they show that when rats are cued with an object stimulus, they can be trained to revisit the location in which the object appeared previously. Conversely, when rats are cued with a location, they can learn to choose the object with which it was associated. Rats with dorsal CA3 lesions are severely impaired at these tasks. These data lend support to the theory that the autoassociative network in the CA3 region of the rodent hippocampus supports the rapid formation of novel associations between stimuli and may allow pattern completion - the phenomenon whereby a subset of the cues present at an encoding event is sufficient to allow recall of other, non-cued aspects of the event. Although flexible recall of arbitrary associations is not yet fully demonstrated, the new study contributes two novel behavioural tasks to the previously limited repertoire for studying paired associate recall in animals. It also builds on previous data to specify the role of the hippocampal CA3 subregion in animal models of cued recall - a critical aspect of episodic memory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1391-6
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioral Neuroscience
Volume122
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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