Pictured above is a common human long-term memory taxonomy that suggests separable memory systems. Declarative memories are memories that we know that we can tell others; non-declarative memories we know by doing. Nonhuman animals cannot verbally report about their knowledge-base or past experiences, so the extent to which animals have declarative memories systems is debated. However, comparative cognition researchers use unique cognitive behavioral methodologies to determine if nonhuman animals exhibit functional parallels to memory systems that we know exist in humans.
The NAC lab is particularly interested in mapping the memory systems of other species, including rodents because not all types of memory exist or function similarly in all species. The answers to these research questions inform our understanding of the evolution of cognitive and memory systems, and provide some of the fundamental knowledge necessary for others to treat and prevent memory disorders.
We are examining the extent to which rodents exhibit functional parallels to episodic memory, including the temporal and ordinal aspects that characterize personal past experiences (e.g. on a recent vacation you first went snorkeling, then ate lunch, and finally went sailing; see review paper on episodic memory in non-humans). Along a similar vein, we have conducted several studies that examine the possibility of metamemory- or awareness of one’s own memory state, in rats.