Arbitrary associations in animals: what can paired associate recall in rats tell us about the neural basis of episodic memory? Theoretical comment on Kesner, Hunsaker, & Warthen (2008)

Rosamund F. Langston, Emma R. Wood

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Detailed memories for unique episodes from an individual's past can be triggered, often effortlessly, when that individual is exposed to a stimulus that was present during the original event. The aim of Kesner et al. (2008) is to understand the neural basis of memory encoding that supports this cued recall of episodic memories. Kesner and colleagues make novel use of an object-place paired-associate task for rats to provide evidence for a critical role of dorsal CA3 in certain aspects of episodic memory encoding. Using one-trial cued recall versions of the task they show that when rats are cued with an object stimulus, they can be trained to revisit the location in which the object appeared previously. Conversely, when rats are cued with a location, they can learn to choose the object with which it was associated. Rats with dorsal CA3 lesions are severely impaired at these tasks. These data are consistent with the theory that the autoassociative network in CA3 supports the rapid formation of novel associations and may allow pattern completion-the phenomenom whereby a subset of the cues present at an encoding event triggers recall of the whole event. Although flexible recall of arbitrary associations is not fully demonstrated, the study contributes 2 novel behavioral tasks to the previously limited repertoire for studying paired associate recall in rats. It also builds on previous data to specify the role of the hippocampal CA3 subregion in cued recall-a critical aspect of episodic memory.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1391-1396
    Number of pages6
    JournalBehavioral Neuroscience
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008


    • episodic memory
    • paired-associate learning
    • cued recall
    • CA3
    • hippocampus
    • CA3

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