The rodent object-in-context task: A systematic review and meta-analysis of important variables

Milou S. C. Sep*, Marijn Vellinga, R. Angela Sarabdjitsingh, Marian Joëls

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Environmental information plays an important role in remembering events. Information about stable aspects of the environment (here referred to as 'context') and the event are combined by the hippocampal system and stored as context-dependent memory. In rodents (such as rats and mice), context-dependent memory is often investigated with the object-incontext task. However, the implementation and interpretation of this task varies considerably across studies. This variation hampers the comparison between studies and-for those who design a new experiment or carry out pilot experiments-the estimation of whether observed behavior is within the expected range. Also, it is currently unclear which of the variables critically influence the outcome of the task. To address these issues, we carried out a preregistered systematic review (PROSPERO CRD42020191340) and provide an up-todate overview of the animal-, task-, and protocol-related variations in the object-in-context task for rodents. Using a data-driven explorative meta-analysis we next identified critical factors influencing the outcome of this task, such as sex, testbox size and the delay between the learning trials. Based on these observations we provide recommendations on sex, strain, prior arousal, context (size, walls, shape, etc.) and timing (habituation, learning, and memory phase) to create more consensus in the set-up, procedure, and interpretation of the object-in-context task for rodents. This could contribute to a more robust and evidencebased design in future animal experiments.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0249102
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7 July
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes

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