A Lateralized Odor Learning Model in Neonatal Rats for Dissecting Neural Circuitry Underpinning Memory Formation.

Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE

PubMedID: 25177826

Fontaine CJ, Mukherjee B, Morrison GL, Yuan Q. A Lateralized Odor Learning Model in Neonatal Rats for Dissecting Neural Circuitry Underpinning Memory Formation. J Vis Exp. 2014;(90):.
Rat pups during a critical postnatal period (= 10 days) readily form a preference for an odor that is associated with stimuli mimicking maternal care. Such a preference memory can last from hours, to days, even life-long, depending on training parameters. Early odor preference learning provides us with a model in which the critical changes for a natural form of learning occur in the olfactory circuitry. An additional feature that makes it a powerful tool for the analysis of memory processes is that early odor preference learning can be lateralized via single naris occlusion within the critical period. This is due to the lack of mature anterior commissural connections of the olfactory hemispheres at this early age. This work outlines behavioral protocols for lateralized odor learning using nose plugs. Acute, reversible naris occlusion minimizes tissue and neuronal damages associated with long-term occlusion and more aggressive methods such as cauterization. The lateralized odor learning model permits within-animal comparison, therefore greatly reducing variance compared to between-animal designs. This method has been used successfully to probe the circuit changes in the olfactory system produced by training. Future directions include exploring molecular underpinnings of odor memory using this lateralized learning model; and correlating physiological change with memory strength and durations.