Many comparative psychologists have tried to invent ways to test episodic memory in animals. Often we settle on finding ways to test whether the context of the event, the what, where and when of the event, is encoded along with the memory. Episodic memory is rich with context cues in humans. Forming contextual memories seems more fragile with age and with neurodegenerative disease, especially Alzheimer's Disease (AD).
The method we are using to periodically test the quality of episodic memory in our aging tamarins is the WWW method (what-where-when). We show the monkeys 2 specific objects (what) at a particular time each day (when), at a particular location (where). After 5 consecutive days of this exposure, we impose a delay of 1-7 days, and then test their memory by violating one or more of the W's -- a what changes, when may change and where may change. Our behavioral variables are look, approach, and touch, which indicate interest in a novel object.
Watch as Encore, Forté, Oriole, and Roosevelt explore new and familiar toys in their environment:
(Real footage from our research!)
View the poster on episodic memory presented at the Minnesota Undergraduate Psychology Conference (MUPC, 2023).