Last Updated on April 1, 2022

What is spatial memory?

Spatial memory is responsible for recording information about one’s environment. Humans, and rodents alike, use spatial memory to navigate through space. In rodents, spatial memory is used to remember the location of a food reward and the path it took to get there within a maze. The hippocampus is one of the main brain regions involved in spatial memory.

A group of neurons within the hippocampus called place cells display unique firing rates when an animal enters a specific location in space and are thought to form a cognitive representation or map of where the animal is in space.

How Can I Test Spatial Memory in Rats and Mice?

There are several tests for spatial memory in rats and mice, and one of the most common is the T-Maze. The T-Maze is named so because it is shaped like a T. In the T-Maze, the rodent starts at the base of the T and must choose between two arms to receive a reward that is placed at the end of either arm.

One of the most common tests using the T-Maze is the spontaneous alternation test. In the spontaneous alternation test, a reward is placed at the end of both arms. In the first trial, the rat or mouse chooses either arm and gets rewarded. On the next trial, the rat or mouse must remember the path it took previously and choose the opposite path to get rewarded.

Rodents with deficits in working memory will have trouble remembering the previous path they took. These types of deficits are often seen in Alzheimer’s disease, and therefore the T-Maze and spontaneous alternation task are useful for testing rodent models of Alzheimer’s.