Researchers created a new free-movement pattern (FMP) Y-maze from a Y-maze behavioral test that already exists. They believe the test will be effective in people and in animal models. Their study appeared recently in Behavior Research Methods.
It is worth noting that an additional benefit of the study would be enhanced research into neurological disorders.
About the Y Maze and Zebra Fish
The original Y-maze test measures the extent to which an animal will travel when exploring new areas in the maze. It uses software that measures the patterns the animals create when moving through the Y maze.
Zebrafish were tested using the FMP Y-maze analysis that identified specific turning patterns that the fish favored.
The patterns (or routes) the fish took were not based on prompting from researchers but they were in accordance with their previous journeys through the maze. Therefore, the routes were based on memory.
The next step was to administer a substance that would affect the memory of the fish. Upon analysis, the researchers noted substantial changes in turning patterns.
The team noted that the fish relied on their recollection of previous choices of turning patterns. The researchers suggested that the FMP Y-maze would be valuable in measuring abnormalities of our short-term working memory, which is our storage of information that we keep readily available.
The Y-Maze, Mice, and Fruit Flies
They began work on an FMP Y-maze for fruit flies and mice using part of the strategy they used for the zebrafish.
The fruit flies had entirely different patterns from that of the mice and zebrafish. That this is most likely due to the flies’ method of exploration which is to climb walls, unlike the vertebrate species.
Yet all three species that were tested showed distinct patterns and evidence of working memory. Of note is that the trial patterns exhibited across the three species happened without external stimuli, such as food, rewards, or administering shocks.
Human Volunteers and the FMP Y-Maze
The researchers turned their focus on a virtual model of the maze to be tested on human subjects. Results showed that the strategy used by human subjects was similar to the patterns of zebrafish and mice.
This was a positive indication that the FMP Y-maze would be appropriate in memory screening for humans and animals. Secondly, the tests could assess the way in which various treatments affect memory.
Dr. Matt Parker of the University of Portsmouth, and co-author of the study, commented on the uniqueness of their non-invasive test and said that their new maze opens the doors to future research in neurological conditions, memory, and cognition.
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