Replay of Episodic Memories in the Rat

Curr Biol. 2018 May 21;28(10):1628-1634.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.04.006. Epub 2018 May 10.


Vivid episodic memories in people have been characterized as the replay of multiple unique events in sequential order [1-3]. The hippocampus plays a critical role in episodic memories in both people and rodents [2, 4-6]. Although rats remember multiple unique episodes [7, 8], it is currently unknown if animals "replay" episodic memories. Therefore, we developed an animal model of episodic memory replay. Here, we show that rats can remember a trial-unique stream of multiple episodes and the order in which these events occurred by engaging hippocampal-dependent episodic memory replay. We document that rats rely on episodic memory replay to remember the order of events rather than relying on non-episodic memories. Replay of episodic memories survives a long retention-interval challenge and interference from the memory of other events, which documents that replay is part of long-term episodic memory. The chemogenetic activating drug clozapine N-oxide (CNO), but not vehicle, reversibly impairs episodic memory replay in rats previously injected bilaterally in the hippocampus with a recombinant viral vector containing an inhibitory designer receptor exclusively activated by a designer drug (DREADD; AAV8-hSyn-hM4Di-mCherry). By contrast, two non-episodic memory assessments are unaffected by CNO, showing selectivity of this hippocampal-dependent impairment. Our approach provides an animal model of episodic memory replay, a process by which the rat searches its representations in episodic memory in sequential order to find information. Our findings using rats suggest that the ability to replay a stream of episodic memories is quite old in the evolutionary timescale.

Keywords: DREADD; episodic memory; episodic replay; familiarity; hippocampus; rat; replay.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley