Object recognition tasks are widely used to measure object memory processes in animal models.

Recently, the memory process of pattern separation, which is impaired in multiple neurological and psychiatric disorders, has received increasing attention. This process is the formation of distinct representations out of similar outputs.

"Pattern separation is a process which is fundamental to memory functioning, but it has only recently gained attention and studied as a single process by researchers," study author, Britt van Hagen, told ALN.

"We do know that patients from a variety of psychiatric diseases (like PTSD, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and depression) show pattern separation impairments which can impact there day-to-day functioning and thus, their quality of life. Learning more about pattern separation processing within the brain will provide us with novel information on the pathology of all these illnesses and furthermore, help find targeted medicine to relieve patients from pattern separation impairments."

Researchers at Maastricht University in the Netherlands and the University of São Paulo in Brazil have developed a new task, object pattern separation, for rodents to measure pattern separation.

The task, derived from both object recognition tasks and object location tasks, aims to measure spatial pattern separation, which uses memory processes centered in the hippocampus.

Adult male C57BL/6 mice and adult male Wistar rats were used to confirm the effectiveness of object pattern separation.

"The object pattern separation task is a reliable and versatile task to measure spatial pattern separation in rodents. Since it is based on voluntary exploration of rodents this limits the amount of stress animals will experience and there is no influence of any emotional or motivational component. This task can be easily implemented in any lab that has a basic behavioral facility, needing only limited resources," van Hagen said.

The study was published in Behavioural Brain Research.