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Curr Biol. 2013 Jun 17;23(12):1089-93. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.04.067. Epub 2013 May 30.

Event-based prospective memory in the rat.

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  • 1Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405-7007, USA.


People plan to act in the future when an appropriate event occurs, a capacity known as event-based prospective memory. Prospective memory involves forming a representation of a planned future action, subsequently inactivating the representation, and ultimately reactivating it at an appropriate point in the future. Recent studies suggest that monkeys, chimpanzees, and rats display elements of prospective memory, but it is uncertain if the full sequence (activation-inactivation-reactivation) that occurs in humans also occurs in nonhumans. Here, we asked if rats exhibit event-based prospective memory. Rats completed an ongoing temporal-discrimination task while waiting for a large meal. To promote the use of event-based prospective memory, we created an event (tone pulses) that provided information that the meal could be obtained soon. Event-based prospective memory was suggested by the dramatic decline in ongoing-task performance after the event, with excellent performance at other times. To document that the event initiated memory activation, we arranged for the event to occur at novel times. Finally, multiple, repeated presentations of the event on the same day demonstrate that rats inactivate and reactivate the memory representation in an on-demand, event-based fashion. Development of an animal model of prospective memory may be valuable to probe the biological underpinnings of memory disorders.

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