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New Insight Into Rats' Memories Could Help With Future Alzheimer's Treatment

(Indiana University)

Indiana University neuroscientists hope new research will lead to the successful development of drugs to help treat Alzheimer’s disease. The research shows the first evidence that animals, specifically rats, can mentally play back events.

Episodic memory is the ability to recall specific events that have happened. It’s the type of memory that, when lost, results in the damaging and often devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

Jonathon Crystal, a professor of psychological and brain sciences, led the study. He says researchers worked with about a dozen rats over the course of a year. The researchers presented the rats with a list of 12 odors, then asked them to recall specific ones.

"And once they’ve learned those rules, then we can do experiments to convince ourselves that they’re using episodic memory to replay the list of the items that was presented to them to find the items that we’re asking them about," Crystal says.

Crystal says the study could lead to a good testing ground for assessing new drugs that might improve episodic memory function.

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