The object pattern separation (OPS) task: A behavioral paradigm derived from the object recognition task

B. T. J. van Hagen, N. P. van Goethem, D. C. Lagatta, J. Prickaerts*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Web of Science)


The object recognition task (ORT) is widely used to measure object memory processes in rodents. Recently, the memory process known as pattern separation has received increasing attention, as impaired pattern separation can be one of the cognitive symptoms of multiple neurological and psychiatric disorders. Pattern separation is the formation of distinct representations out of similar inputs. In the search for an easily implemented task for rodents that can be used to measure pattern separation, we developed a task derived from the ORT and the object location task (OLT), which we called the object pattern separation (OPS) task. This task aims to measure spatial pattern separation per se, which utilizes memory processes centered in the DG and CA3 region of the hippocampus. Adult male C57BL/6 mice and adult male Wistar rats were used to validate different object locations which can be used to measure spatial pattern separation. Furthermore, different inter-trial time intervals were tested with the most optimal object location, to further evaluate pattern separation-related memory in mice. We found that specific object locations show gradual effects, which is indicative of pattern separation, and that the OPS task allows the detection of spatial pattern separation bi-directionally at intermediate spatial separations. Thus, object locations and time intervals can be specifically adjusted as needed, in order to investigate an expected improvement or impairment. We conclude that the current spatial OPS task can be best described as a specific version of the ORT, which can be used to investigate pattern separation processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-52
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2015


  • Pattern separation
  • Spatial pattern separation task
  • Rodents
  • Dentate gyrus
  • Neurogenesis
  • Cognition

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