Assessing rodent hippocampal involvement in the novel object recognition task. A review

Behav Brain Res. 2015 May 15:285:105-17. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2014.08.002. Epub 2014 Aug 26.


The novel object recognition (NOR) task has emerged as a popular method for testing the neurobiology of nonspatial memory in rodents. This task exploits the natural tendency of rodents to explore novel items and depending on the amount of time that rodents spend exploring the presented objects, inferences about memory can be established. Despite its wide use, the underlying neural circuitry and mechanisms supporting NOR have not been clearly defined. In particular, considerable debate has focused on whether the hippocampus plays a significant role in the object memory that is encoded, consolidated and then retrieved during discrete stages of the NOR task. Here we analyzed the results of all published reports in which the role of the rodent hippocampus in object memory was inferred from performance in the task with restricted parameters. We note that the remarkable variability in NOR methods across studies complicates the ability to draw meaningful conclusions from the work. Focusing on 12 reports in which a minimum criterion of sample session object exploration was imposed, we find that temporary or permanent lesion of the hippocampus consistently disrupts object memory when a delay of 10 min or greater is imposed between the sample and test sessions. We discuss the significance of a delay-dependent role of the hippocampus in NOR within the framework of the medial temporal lobe. We assert that standardization of the NOR protocol is essential for obtaining reliable data that can then be compared across studies to build consensus as to the specific contribution of the rodent hippocampus to object memory.

Keywords: Hippocampus; Inactivation; Lesion; Memory; Object recognition; Rodents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Mice
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Rats
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*