Spontaneous object recognition: a promising approach to the comparative study of memory

Front Behav Neurosci. 2015 Jul 10;9:183. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2015.00183. eCollection 2015.


Spontaneous recognition of a novel object is a popular measure of exploratory behavior, perception and recognition memory in rodent models. Because of its relative simplicity and speed of testing, the variety of stimuli that can be used, and its ecological validity across species, it is also an attractive task for comparative research. To date, variants of this test have been used with vertebrate and invertebrate species, but the methods have seldom been sufficiently standardized to allow cross-species comparison. Here, we review the methods necessary for the study of novel object recognition in mammalian and non-mammalian models, as well as the results of these experiments. Critical to the use of this test is an understanding of the organism's initial response to a novel object, the modulation of exploration by context, and species differences in object perception and exploratory behaviors. We argue that with appropriate consideration of species differences in perception, object affordances, and natural exploratory behaviors, the spontaneous object recognition test can be a valid and versatile tool for translational research with non-mammalian models.

Keywords: exploration; memory; neophobia; novelty; object; recognition.

Publication types

  • Review