Modeling a task that is sensitive to dementia of the Alzheimer's type: Individual differences in acquisition of a visuo-spatial paired-associate learning task in rhesus monkeys

Michael A. Taffe, Michael R. Weed, Tannia Gutierrez, Sophia A. Davis, Lisa H. Gold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Early detection of progressive diseases such as Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is crucial for both the treatment and study of the disease. Performance on a visuo-spatial paired-associates learning (vsPAL) task was recently shown to reliably predict a diagnosis of AD in aged populations. The present study reports the development of this vsPAL task for use in nonhuman primates. Translation of vsPAL to a nonhuman model may provide improved preclinical tools for study of the etiology and treatment of dementia. Twelve young adult male rhesus monkeys were trained to perform the vsPAL task concurrently with tests comprising a nonhuman primate neuropsychological test battery. Monkeys successfully learned to perform vsPAL and did so in a task-difficulty ranked fashion. Despite significant individual differences in capability in the acquisition of the recognition memory aspects of the task, all monkeys evidenced the ability to learn within-trial, i.e. to improve with repeated stimulus-location pairings. These results support the use of vsPAL performance under various challenge conditions to investigate the possible substrates of early cognitive decline in AD. Comparison of performance on vsPAL with performance on other memory tasks in the battery will be of more general use in differentiating mechanisms involved in various aspects of mnemonic function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-133
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2 2004



  • Alzheimer's
  • Cognition
  • Learning
  • Memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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