About this Research Topic
Animals show a natural tendency to explore novel, as opposed to familiar, stimuli, suggesting an underlying memory process in regard to previously encoded information. Dependent on this tendency, spontaneous object exploration paradigms have been developed in animals to measure memory processes regarding what an object is, where an object is located, when an object is present, the association of an object and its location, in which context an object is shown and an episodic context of the combined “what-where-when” components. These paradigms feature in the absence of extensive training and reward or aversive incentives, analogous to incidental encoding of daily memory. The application of these object exploration tests is broad and covers many fields, such as behavioral neuroscience, psychopharmacology and the neurobiology of recognition memory across species.
The medial prefrontal cortex, parietal cortex and medial temporal lobe (the hippocampus, entorhinal cortex, perirhinal cortex and parahippocampal cortex) are the main neuroanatomical structures that are considered to underlie recognition memory. However, the retrosplenial cortex, insular cortex, anterior thalamus, nucleus reuniens of thalamus, striatum and amygdala are also considered to play a part. As well, recent findings also indicate that the lateral hypothalamus, interpeduncular nucleus and cerebellum contribute to recognition memory under certain conditions. Neurotransmitter systems actively mediate and orchestrate the neuronal communication between these structures during the processing of learning and memory. An entire picture of the neuroanatomy and neurobiology of recognition memory will, however, require multidisciplinary approaches of imaging, lesion, pharmacology, optogenetics, chemogenetics and behavioral studies.
Recognition memory deficits are also major symptoms in multiple neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders, such as schizophrenia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorder, Parkinson’s disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Although the etiology of the shared memory deficits is not fully understood, it may be associated with environmental, pharmacological and genetic factors that are commonly exposed to these disorders. Spontaneous object exploration paradigms with minimal involvement of emotional valences are appropriate in the study of neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders as these disorders may sensitize one to emotional stimuli, leading to a deficit in recognition memory. Given the impact of these disorders and their memory deficits on our society there is a strong need to understand the underlying mechanisms and development of innovative pharmaceuticals and gene therapeutics.
This Research Topic focuses on, and we welcome contributions that target, these spontaneous object exploration tests in animals to delineate the neuroanatomy, neurochemistry and neurobiology of recognition memory and effects of drugs or other treatments of translational studies in this domain.
Keywords: Object Recognition, Hippocampus, Entorhinal Cortex, Medial Prefrontal Cortex, Episodic Memory
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