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Object recognition test in mice


The object recognition test is now among the most commonly used behavioral tests for mice. A mouse is presented with two similar objects during the first session, and then one of the two objects is replaced by a new object during a second session. The amount of time taken to explore the new object provides an index of recognition memory. As more groups have used the protocol, the variability of the procedures used in the object recognition test has increased steadily. This protocol provides a necessary standardization of the procedure. This protocol reduces inter-individual variability with the use of a selection criterion based on a minimal time of exploration for both objects during each session. In this protocol, we describe the three most commonly used variants, containing long (3 d), short (1 d) or no habituation phases. Thus, with a short intersession interval (e.g., 6 h), this procedure can be performed in 4, 2 or 1 d, respectively, according to the duration of the habituation phase. This protocol should allow for the comparison of results from different studies, while permitting adaption of the protocol to the constraints of the experimenter.

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Figure 1: A photograph of two typical objects (tower of Lego bricks and Falcon tissue culture flask filled with sand) to use in an object recognition protocol.
Figure 2: Experimental design of the three protocols for object recognition.
Figure 3: Typical results showing time mice spent exploring objects.
Figure 4: Typical results showing time to reach the criterion (20 s of total exploration time of both objects) during the two sessions according to the object recognition procedure tested.


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We wish to especially thank G. Bongers (from Noldus Information Technology) for discussions we had on the pros and cons of having experiments automatically analyzed through software and the relevant arguments he put forward. We are grateful to C. Mason for reading the manuscript. A.Q.'s research participation is funded by the French Ministry of Research.

Author information




A.Q. and M.L. designed and performed the experiments, analyzed the data and drafted the article. T.F. supervised the study. V.B., B.H., M.B. and P.S.-B. revised the manuscript for important intellectual content. All authors discussed the results and commented on the article at all stages.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Thomas Freret.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Leger, M., Quiedeville, A., Bouet, V. et al. Object recognition test in mice. Nat Protoc 8, 2531–2537 (2013).

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