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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Pattern separation and goal-directed behavior in the aged canine.

Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

The pattern separation task has recently emerged as a behavioral model of hippocampus function and has been used in several pharmaceutical trials. The canine is a useful model to evaluate a multitude of hippocampal-dependent cognitive tasks that parallel those in humans. Thus, this study was designed to evaluate the suitability of pattern separation task(s) for detecting age-related changes in canines. We also assessed the dogs' ability to show pattern separation and discrimination reversal, which provides a novel extension of the pattern separation learning literature. Our data show that aged dogs are impaired on a complex pattern separation task (six-well task) relative to easier tasks (four-well or six-well pattern discrimination task), and that the age-related deficits are due to loss of perceptual and inhibitory control in addition to the loss of spatial discrimination and pattern separation ability. Our data also suggest that aged animals show pattern separation deficits when the objects are brought progressively closer together while changing the location of both correct and incorrect objects. However, if the location of any one object is fixed the animals tend to use alternate strategies. Overall, these data provide important insight into age-related pattern separation deficits in a higher animal model and offers additional means for evaluating the impact of lifestyle and pharmaceutical interventions on episodic memory in preclinical trials.

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