Evidence for remembering when events occurred in a rodent model of episodic memory.

Department of Psychology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-3013, USA.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 9.81). 06/2009; 106(23):9525-9. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0904360106
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The content of episodic memory consists of representations of unique past events. Episodic memories are grounded in a temporal framework (i.e., we remember when an event occurred). It has recently been argued that episodic-like memory in rats is qualitatively different from human episodic memory because, rather than remembering when an earlier past event occurred, rats used the cue of how long ago it occurred. We asked, therefore, whether rats remember the time of day at which they encountered a distinctive event, in addition to what occurred and where it happened. Rats were tested in the morning and afternoon, on separate days. A distinctive flavor (chocolate) was replenished at a daily-unique location at only one of these times. The interval between first and second daily opportunities to eat (study and test, respectively) was constant. Rats adjusted their revisits to the chocolate location at different times of day by using time of day rather than the cue of how long ago an event occurred. Two lines of evidence suggest that rats remembered the time at which the distinctive event occurred. First, under conditions in which the time of test (but not time of study) was novel, rats immediately transferred their knowledge of the chocolate contingency to the new test time. Second, under conditions in which predictions for study and test times were put in conflict, rats again used study time. Our results suggest that, at the time of memory assessment, rats remember when a recent episode occurred, similar to human episodic memory.

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