Odor Memory and Discrimination Covary as a Function of Delay between Encoding and Recall in Rats

Chem Senses. 2015 Jun;40(5):315-23. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjv013. Epub 2015 Apr 21.


Nonassociative odor learning paradigms are often used to assess memory, social recognition and neuromodulation of olfactory pathways. We here use a modified object recognition paradigm to investigate how an important task parameter, delay between encoding and recall trials, affects the properties of this memory. We show that both memory for a previously investigated odorant and discrimination of a novel odorant decay with delay time and that rats can remember an odorant for up to 45min after a single trial encoding event. The number of odorants that can be encoded, as well as the specificity of the encoded memory, decrease with increased delay and also depend on stimulus concentration. Memory for an odorant and discrimination of a novel odorant decay at approximately the same rate, whereas the specificity of the formed memory decays faster than the memory itself. These results have important implications for the interpretation of behavioral data obtained with this paradigm.

Keywords: discrimination; memory; olfaction; recognition.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Odorants*
  • Rats
  • Time Factors