Cognition & memory

Solutions for testing

Cognition & memory

A substantial part of neuroscientific animal behavior studies covers learning and memory processes. Especially in light of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s research, brain damage studies, and other neurological diseases, rodent models are of great importance in discovering brain mechanism and possible treatments.

Solutions for testing Cognition & memory

Rodent studies

There is a wide range of well-validated paradigms available for testing cognition. Studies focus on different types of learning and memory, such as spatial memory, recognition memory, associative learning, and differences between long-term, short-term, and working memory.


Video tracking in cognition tests

EthoVision XT offers a number of benefits in learning and memory studies. For starters, it is suitable for any type of maze or test set-up as long as there is an unobstructed view of the animal. It also easily measures velocity, distance moved, path shape, and other parameters that help identify the learning curve and memory retention in these tests.

In addition to center point tracking, EthoVision XT can track the nose point and tail base, which is convenient in studies that test object recognition, for example. Combined with head direction and movement, this offers detailed data on object interest.

Another useful feature of EthoVision XT is activity detection. Instead of tracking body points, this feature detects frame-to-frame changes on pixel level, ideal to study freezing in fear conditioning, for example.


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EthoVision XT is used in over 22,000 publications. Get your free trial to try it out!


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Basic behavioral neuroscience in rodents

Cognition and memory are one of the most studied neurocognitive domains in rodents. These can be measured in rats and mice using a number of behavioral tests. All types of cognition and memory, and how these can be tested, are explained in our new e-book; the basic behavioral neuroscience in rodents, which is free to download.


white rat looking over edge of lab cage

Spatial memory studies

Spatial memory involves brain regions such as the hippocampus, and is an important focus in research on autism spectrum disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, Korsakoff’s syndrome, depression, and specific types of amnesia.


Allocentric and egocentric memory

Spatial memory can be either allocentric or egocentric. These can be differentiated with spatial navigation tests. In a Morris water maze, radial arm maze, Barnes maze, T- or Y-maze, or agora maze, the animal can learn to get to a reward or escape platform/hole by using the distant cues. For example, by navigating towards a triangle sign.

If the animal learns a specific route of left and right turns to get there, it uses egocentric memory, which is based on a ‘first-person perspective’. If the starting point is changed in a test, the animal will go the wrong way, which is how researchers can differentiate between the different navigation strategies.

Testing navigational strategies is important in studies on Alzheimer’s disease, for example. One of the symptoms of this disease is that individuals lose their way, even in familiar places. Studies indicate that mostly allocentric memory is affected. Focusing on the distinction between types of spatial memory increases the knowledge of mechanisms of this disease.

ethovision acquisition radial arm maze video tracking

white rat with a novel object  

Recognition memory

One of the best-known memory tests for rodents is the novel object recognition test. This paradigm is developed to study recognition memory. This is a type of declarative memory, and many brain regions seem to be involved in this type of memory, such as the temporal lobe, frontal lobe, and hippocampus. This type of memory is often studied in research on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.



Associative learning

In associative learning tasks, animals are tested on their ability to associate to unrelated items or events to each other. For example, a light cue and a food reward. Fear conditioning is a well-known example to test associative learning, as in this test a light or sound cue is paired with a foot shock.

fear conditioning cage blocked

Long-term vs short-term memory

Another aspect of memory testing in rodent is differentiating between long-term and short-term memory. By testing at different time points in an experiment, researchers aim to investigate the different forms of memory.

In humans, we also discriminate working memory, which differs from short-term memory because it is conscious and active while attention in given. If rodents possess a similar working memory is under debate, but some research suggests it is a representation of an object, stimulus, or spatial location as used within a training session.


Mazes - Perfect for cognition and memory studies

Complement software with high-quality lab equipment, and automate your cognition and memory tests.

Open field

The open field test is a straight-forward test to investigate activity, anxiety-related and exploratory behavior of rodents.

Morris water maze

The Morris water maze task is a popular and well-validated test for spatial learning: most-used behavioral test in neuroscience research.

Radial arm maze

The radial arm maze is test for spatial / working / reference learning and memory in rats and mice, for several sophisticated test protocols.

Barnes maze

The Barnes maze is a paradigm to study spatial learning and memory. It consists of a circular table with holes around the circumference.


The T-maze task is an investigation of spatial learning and memory. Subsequently, reversal learning or retention can be investigated.


The Y-maze is, similar to the T-maze, a test to investigate spatial learning and memory. Specifically designed for testing rats or mice.

Cross maze

The aquatic cross maze is a multifunctional maze for zebrafish learning and memory testing, but also for social preference.

Fear conditioning

Fear conditioning and other learning tasks in rodents are typical in a wide range of neuropharmacological studies, amongst others.

Sociability cage

The sociability cage is designed to test the social behavior or social memory of one individual towards others.

Biel/Cincinnati Water Maze

The Biel/Cincinnati Water Maze is used for studying egocentric navigation, learning, and memory.


Free white paper

Fear conditioning

Fear - a highly conserved behavior in rodents. Read about how EthoVision XT automates this test and accurately measures freezing behavior in this Pavlovian learning tasks for rodents.

In this white paper, you'll learn more about fear conditioning tests, methods, detecting of freezing, and you can read more about current research.


Customer quote

"EthoVision XT has dramatically improved my ability to incorporate extensive behavioral testing with one group of animals. It reduces the time needed to record and analyze behaviors while allowing for much more extensive analysis of behavior."

Dr. M. Hyer|Virginia Commonwealth University, USA


Prof. Rimondini: "EthoVision XT is for dummies."

Prof. Roberto Rimondini is a neuropsychopharmacologist at the Department of Medical and Clinical Sciences DIMEC, Alma Mater Studiorum Bologna (University of Bologna, Italy). He has been using EthoVision XT video tracking software since its DOS version! He finds it so easy to use, it’s ‘dummy proof’!

Watch the video to learn more about why he chooses Noldus' tools.


rodents video tracking ethovision multiple body points

Blog post: Why you should use video tracking in behavioral research

Video tracking in behavioral science can be used in a variety of studies. In this blogpost you can find an overview of our top 5 favorite blogs on why you should use video tracking in your behavioral research.


Relevant blogs

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The search for autism models continues - why rats are important

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Brain waves and behavior: sleep to learn

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