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Competitive short-term and long-term memory processes in spatial habituation.

Sanderson, D.J. and Bannerman, D.M. (2011) 'Competitive short-term and long-term memory processes in spatial habituation.', Journal of experimental psychology : animal behavior processes., 37 (2). pp. 189-199.


Exposure to a spatial location leads to habituation of exploration such that, in a novelty preference test, rodents subsequently prefer exploring a novel location to the familiar location. According to Wagner's (1981) theory of memory, short-term and long-term habituation are caused by separate and sometimes opponent processes. In the present study, this dual-process account of memory was tested. Mice received a series of exposure training trials to a location before receiving a novelty preference test. The novelty preference was greater when tested after a short, rather than a long, interval. In contrast, the novelty preference was weaker when exposure training trials were separated by a short, rather than a long interval. Furthermore, it was found that long-term habituation was determined by the independent effects of the amount of exposure training and the number of exposure training trials when factors such as the intertrial interval and the cumulative intertrial interval were controlled. A final experiment demonstrated that a long-term reduction of exploration could be caused by a negative priming effect due to associations formed during exploration. These results provide evidence against a single-process account of habituation and suggest that spatial habituation is determined by both short-term, recency-based memory and long-term, incrementally strengthened memory.

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Date of first online publication:April 2011
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