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Animal models of episodic memory

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People retrieve episodic memories about specific earlier events that happened to them. Accordingly, researchers have sought to evaluate the hypothesis that nonhumans retrieve episodic memories. The central hypothesis of an animal model of episodic memory is that, at the moment of a memory assessment, the animal retrieves a memory of a specific earlier event. We tested this hypothesis by ruling out non-episodic memory hypotheses. We developed a range of approaches, so that we have working models to evaluate elements of episodic memory in animals. These approaches include: what-where-when memory (Zhou & Crystal 2009, PNAS ); source memory (Crystal, Alford, Zhou, & Hohmann 2013, Current Biology); binding of episodic memories (Crystal & Smith 2014, Current Biology); multiple item-in-context memories (Panoz-Brown et al., 2016, Current Biology); replay of episodic memories (Panoz-Brown et al., 2018, Current Biology); and answering unexpected questions after incidental encoding (Zhou, Hohmann, & Crystal 2012, Current Biology). In each approach, evidence for episodic memory comes from studies in which judgments of familiarity cannot produce accurate choices in memory assessments. These approaches may be used to explore the evolution of memory.


Jonathon Crystal is a Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences at Indiana University, where he is also a faculty member in the Cognitive Science Program, Program in Neuroscience, and Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior. He is Editor-in-Chief of Learning & Behavior. He previously served as Director of the Program in Neuroscience at Indiana, and he was a Professor of Psychology at University of Georgia and an Assistant Professor at College of William & Mary. He received PhD (1997) and Master of Science (1994) degrees from Brown University, in the laboratory of Russ Church. He received a Bachelor of Science (1992) from the University of Toronto, where he worked in the laboratories of Sara Shettleworth and Ken Cheng. The objective of work in the Crystal laboratory is to develop animal models of memory, focusing on the types of memory that are impaired in human diseases. His lab has developed a number of techniques for evaluating cognition in rats, including: replay of episodic memories, binding of episodic memories, prospective memory, what-where-when memory, source memory, metacognition, and retrieval practice. These approaches can be used in animal models of human diseases of memory, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and may be used to explore the evolution of memory. Crystal is a Fellow of American Psychological Association, Association for Psychological Science, Psychonomic Society, and Eastern Psychological Association

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