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Thursday, June 20
The Indiana Daily Student

academics & research

Research aids mental health research

IU’s Comparative Cognition Laboratory has made a discovery that will change the way human mental health research is done.

According to recent research, rats have a source memory, said Jonathon Crystal, designer of the tests the rats underwent.

“Source memory is remembering where they acquired something,” Crystal said. “It’s a part of episodic memory, a bigger category.”

The discovery is so important, Crystal said, because the discovery of rats’ memory means that animals can be used to discover a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

“Currently there are no effective treatments to fix (Alzheimer’s),” Crystal said. “The animal models that are currently being used are really good at capturing the disease, but not with memory.”

The test used to find the memory of rats was a relatively simple one, Crystal said.

“We set up a maze where the rats would get rewarded for running to the food, which was laced with chocolate,” said Crystal. “The other way that they could obtain it was being placed in front of it by the experimenter.”

According to the press release, the rats were put through an eight-arm radial maze and underwent a series of five experiments that provided researchers the proof of recollection.

The first two required the rats to remember the source of the chocolate. The third showed the lasting memory. The fourth showed rats remembered to find the trough that marked where the researchers would pick them up from. The fifth was slightly more complicated. Researchers disabled the rats’ hippocampi, the brain region responsible for source memory.

The rats no longer remembered how to find the chocolate.

The reason the tests were so successful, according to a press release, was the rats’ love of chocolate. The rats’ source memory of where to find the chocolate lasted for more than the few days, which is typical of the other types of memory in the rats.

“Rats are really good at learning where the food is,” Crystal said. The research was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.

More information about the discoveries made is available in the scientific journal Current Biology.

— Laura Schulte

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