A new study has found a new way to measure memory in both animals and people. The hope is that this assessment will aid in the research of Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions.
The study was recently published in the journal Behavior Research Methods.
Animal models are a critical part of healthcare research, and they are particularly useful for evaluating cognitive flexibility and memory.
Unfortunately, it’s not a simple process. Each animal species is unique, and obviously not an exact replica of humans. Therefore, it is not always clear just how much findings from an animal study can be extrapolated to humans. Additionally, memory tests on animals can require inhumane shock stimuli.
Ultimately, animal models are not the most ideal, but they are currently one of the best options we have. Researchers are continuing to develop new strategies for improving this type of research.
A New Maze
The Y-maze is an existing test which is used to see whether animals will explore the areas of a maze they haven’t been exposed to before.
The new maze is called the FMP Y-maze. This maze documents the choices animals make of where to turn in the maze. It then checks for patterns between the animal’s decisions.
The researchers first investigated this maze using zebrafish. There was a consistent pattern amongst the fish, and this pattern of choices was clearly a result of their memory and not a decision made by other cues. No food rewards, shocks, or other interventions by the researchers were used.
They then gave the fish substances that would impact their memory. Consistent with their findings, the patterns the fish followed changed dramatically.
The team next used the maze with mice. The mice used a similar strategy to the zebrafish.
Next were fruit flies. This species used a different pattern than the vertebrate species, but a distinct pattern was found nonetheless.
Researchers are hopeful that this new maze could open the door for new research avenues. It could provide the opportunity to study and compare memory tests across different species. Additionally, the test is humane and has been found to be reliable.
The last step was to investigate this maze with human volunteers. The result was very similar to the vertebrate animal species. There was a clear pattern, determined by memory.
This new maze could be used for screening patients for memory issues. It could help to diagnose patients, assess the effects of a certain therapy on patient’s memory, and more.
You can read more about this new development here.