Cleal, M., Fontana, B.D., Ranson, D.C., McBride, S.D., Swinny, J.D., Redhead, E.S., Parker, M.O. (2020). A test of memory: The fish, the mouse, the fly And the human. bioRxiv, 2020.02.15.950816 [Preprint]. February 15, 2020.
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.