Object recognition memory: neurobiological mechanisms of encoding, consolidation and retrieval

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2008 Jul;32(5):1055-70. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2008.04.004. Epub 2008 Apr 24.


Tests of object recognition memory, or the judgment of the prior occurrence of an object, have made substantial contributions to our understanding of the nature and neurobiological underpinnings of mammalian memory. Only in recent years, however, have researchers begun to elucidate the specific brain areas and neural processes involved in object recognition memory. The present review considers some of this recent research, with an emphasis on studies addressing the neural bases of perirhinal cortex-dependent object recognition memory processes. We first briefly discuss operational definitions of object recognition and the common behavioural tests used to measure it in non-human primates and rodents. We then consider research from the non-human primate and rat literature examining the anatomical basis of object recognition memory in the delayed nonmatching-to-sample (DNMS) and spontaneous object recognition (SOR) tasks, respectively. The results of these studies overwhelmingly favor the view that perirhinal cortex (PRh) is a critical region for object recognition memory. We then discuss the involvement of PRh in the different stages--encoding, consolidation, and retrieval--of object recognition memory. Specifically, recent work in rats has indicated that neural activity in PRh contributes to object memory encoding, consolidation, and retrieval processes. Finally, we consider the pharmacological, cellular, and molecular factors that might play a part in PRh-mediated object recognition memory. Recent studies in rodents have begun to indicate the remarkable complexity of the neural substrates underlying this seemingly simple aspect of declarative memory.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Mental Recall / physiology
  • Pattern Recognition, Physiological / physiology*
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*