The touchscreen operant platform for testing learning and memory in rats and mice.
Horner AE., Heath CJ., Hvoslef-Eide M., Kent BA., Kim CH., Nilsson SR., Alsiö J., Oomen CA., Holmes A., Saksida LM., Bussey TJ.
An increasingly popular method of assessing cognitive functions in rodents is the automated touchscreen platform, on which a number of different cognitive tests can be run in a manner very similar to touchscreen methods currently used to test human subjects. This methodology is low stress (using appetitive rather than aversive reinforcement), has high translational potential and lends itself to a high degree of standardization and throughput. Applications include the study of cognition in rodent models of psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, Huntington's disease, frontotemporal dementia), as well as the characterization of the role of select brain regions, neurotransmitter systems and genes in rodents. This protocol describes how to perform four touchscreen assays of learning and memory: visual discrimination, object-location paired-associates learning, visuomotor conditional learning and autoshaping. It is accompanied by two further protocols (also published in this issue) that use the touchscreen platform to assess executive function, working memory and pattern separation.