Cleal, M., Fontana, B.D., Ranson, D.C., McBride, S.D., Swinny, J.D., Redhead, E.S. & Parker, M.O. (2020). The Free-movement pattern y-maze: The effective study of working memory, exploratory patterns and behavioural plasticity. Behaviour Research Methods.
Simple mazes have provided numerous tasks for assessing working memory. The discrete nature of choices in the T-maze has provided a robust protocol with sensitivity to cognitive deficits, whilst the continuous Y-maze reduces manual handling and pre-trial training. We have combined these attributes to develop a new behavioural task for assessing working memory, the Free-movement pattern (FMP) Y-maze. Using sequentially recorded left and right turns we demonstrate that zebrafish and mice use a single dominant strategy predominantly consisting of alternations between left and right choices trial-to-trial. We further tested this protocol with Drosophila and discovered an alternative invertebrate search strategy. Finally, a virtual human FMP Y-maze confirmed a common strategy among all tested vertebrate species, validating the translational power of the task for human research. The FMP Y-maze combines robust investigation of working memory and high translational power, generating a simple task with far-reaching impact.