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International 3Rs Prize now open for applications. £30k prize (£2k personal award) for outstanding science with demonstrable 3Rs impacts.

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PhD Studentship

Spontaneous recognition tasks and the 3Rs

Dr Alexander Easton with a colleague in conversation

At a glance

Award date
October 2011 - September 2014
Grant amount
Principal investigator
Dr Alexander Easton


Durham University


  • Reduction
  • Refinement

Application abstract

Spontaneous tasks of object exploration are becoming common in testing memory in rodents. However, these tasks require large numbers of animals to provide enough data to interpret the results appropriately. In addition, these tasks are not normally suited to testing complex forms of memory, meaning studies on the neurobiology of these more complex forms of memory (such as episodic memory – the memory of past events in one's life) continue to be studied in primates. The project aims to develop a task in rodents that both tests forms of complex memory in spontaneous tasks in rodents (replacing the need for primates in these studies) and refines the procedures for these tasks such that fewer animals can be used to provide the same (or greater) interpretive power with less handling, leading to lower levels of stress in the animals. In addition, the development of a precisely controlled task in animals will allow the student to develop non-animal alternatives to understanding the neural basis of episodic memory in humans.



  1. Ameen-Ali KE et al. (2017). Incidental context information increases recollection. Learning & memory (Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.) 24(3):136-139. doi: 10.1101/lm.042622.116
  2. Ameen-Ali KE et al. (2015). Moving beyond standard procedures to assess spontaneous recognition memory. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 53:37-51. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2015.03.013
  3. Ameen-Ali KE et al. (2012). A new behavioural apparatus to reduce animal numbers in multiple types of spontaneous object recognition paradigm in rats. J. Neurosci. Methods. 211:66-76. doi :10.1016/j.jneumeth.2012.08.006