Spontaneous alternation test

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The spontaneous alternation task is used to assess spatial working memory in rodents and is based on the innate tendency of rodents to explore a prior unexplored arm of a T- or Y-maze.

Thus, a rodent typically remembers which arm it has just visited. Two types of procedures are classically described. In a first procedure, the subject is allowed to freely explore the maze. Alternation behavior, defined as consecutive entries into each of the three arms without repetition, is measured. In another procedure, the subject is placed at the end of the start arm of a T- or Y-maze and is allowed to explore one of the two other arms. The subject is then returned to the start arm and will typically choose to explore the alternate arm, which correspond to a correct choice.

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Reasons for choosing this test

  • Spatial and non-spatial working memory
  • Standard test for phenotyping
  • Simple to set up and use
  • Quick procedure
  • Does not require prior food deprivation
  • Sensitive for both rats and mice

Reasons for not choosing this test

  • Locomotor activity alterations can interfere with arms exploration
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