Caroline Davidson

Caroline Davidson

Trial-by-Trial Analysis as a Tool for Paired-Associates Learning


Caroline Davidson, Elena Garcia, Samantha M. Smith, Sabrina Zequeira, Sarah A. Johnson, Andriena Hampton, Jose Abrisamra, Sara N. Burke


Dr. Sara Burke


College of Medicine


To effectively study preclinical populations in basic research, behavioral and cognitive assessments should be related to clinically relevant tasks used in human study participants. One aim of the current research is to implement a Paired-Associates Learning (PAL) task, in rodent populations to study cognitive aging in a way that is clinically applicable. In humans, the “PAL” task is widely used to assess cognitive dysfunction through visuospatial learning. PAL has been demonstrated to serve as an important screening tool for Alzheimer’s Disease (Junkkilla et al., 2012) and dementia (Barnett et al.) in humans. In our rodent version of PAL, three visual patterns are associated with three separate locations on a touchscreen. For a trial to be correct, the designated stimulus must be selected while in its correct location amongst two incorrect options. Previously, we used a 3-dimensional maze to assess the working memory of young and aged rats. Like PAL, this maze requires strategic decision-making as both the object and place must be determined correctly. Aged rats demonstrated the use of a suboptimal response-based strategy during the maze task (Colon-Perez et al., 2019). Now, using the PAL task, our interpretation includes trial-by-trial analysis to better understand this response bias and other inefficient strategies as they pertain to poor performance. This study looks at trial-by-trial analysis of two cohorts: a rodent model of normal cognitive aging (n=22) and of closed cortical impact (n=18). This approach demonstrates the advantage of trial-by-trial analysis for determining the neurobiological mechanisms of cognitive dysfunction.


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Research Pitch

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