Assessment of Spatial Memory Using the T Maze

Gary L. Wenk1

1 University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
Publication Name:  Current Protocols in Neuroscience
Unit Number:  Unit 8.5B
DOI:  10.1002/0471142301.ns0805bs04
Online Posting Date:  May, 2001
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This unit describes the use of the T maze to assess spatial memory, and takes into account the alternating behavior of rats in searching for food. The task is based on the premise that animals have evolved an optimal strategy to explore their environment and obtain food with a minimum amount of effort. The T maze has been most extensively used to investigate specific aspects of spatial working memory, which is operationally defined as information that is only useful to a rat during the current experience with the task. A modification of the maze allows for the assessment of reference memory, defined as information that is useful across all exposures to the task (i.e., on any day of testing). Finally, in the absence of food‚Äźdeprivation, a simple T maze can be used as described to assess spontaneous alternation.

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Table of Contents

  • Basic Protocol 1: T Maze Testing for the Assessment of Spatial Memory
  • Alternate Protocol 1: Use of the T Maze to Test Working Versus Reference Memory
  • Alternate Protocol 2: Spontaneous Alternation on a T Maze
  • Commentary
  • Figures
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Basic Protocol 1: T Maze Testing for the Assessment of Spatial Memory

  • Rats
  • Pharmacological agents (optional)
  • Food reward: e.g., 1‐mg piece of normal chow, flavored (chocolate) or sweetened breakfast cereal, chocolate milk, or water
  • Split‐stem T maze (Fig. ), handmade or commercial (Coulbourn Instruments or Columbus Instruments), without hardware cloth partition, Plexiglas barrier, or curtain

Alternate Protocol 1: Use of the T Maze to Test Working Versus Reference Memory

  • Hardware cloth partition, Plexiglas barrier, and curtain for split‐stem T maze (Fig. )
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Literature Cited

Literature Cited
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Key References
   Hepler, et al., 1985. See above.
  Provides an introduction to the use of the split‐stem T maze to determine the effects of specific brain lesions.
   Richman, C.L., Dember, W.N., and Kim, P. 1986/1987. Spontaneous alternation behavior in animals: A review. Curr. Psychol. Res. Rev. 5:358‐391.
  Provides a general review of the use of the standard T maze to study spontaneous alternation behavior.
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