T-maze alternation in the rodent

Nat Protoc. 2006;1(1):7-12. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2006.2.


This protocol details a method for using a T-maze to assess the cognitive ability of rodents. The T-maze is an elevated or enclosed apparatus in the form of a T placed horizontally. Animals are started from the base of the T and allowed to choose one of the goal arms abutting the other end of the stem. If two trials are given in quick succession, on the second trial the rodent tends to choose the arm not visited before, reflecting memory of the first choice. This is called 'spontaneous alternation'. This tendency can be reinforced by making the animal hungry and rewarding it with a preferred food if it alternates. Both spontaneous and rewarded alternation are very sensitive to dysfunction of the hippocampus, but other brain structures are also involved. Each trial should be completed in under 2 min, but the total number of trials required will vary according to statistical and scientific requirements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Choice Behavior
  • Cognition*
  • Intelligence Tests*
  • Maze Learning*
  • Reward
  • Rodentia / psychology*