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Object Recognition Memory Assay with Bow-Tie Maze


The Bow-Tie Maze was described by Albasser et al, 2010 for rodents. The test is a novel object recognition assay that assesses recognition memory. It is derived from a combination of spontaneous object exploration and the nonhuman primate delayed nonmatching-to-sample tests established in 1975.

At AniLocus, this assay is used to assess treatment efficacy in rodent models of cognitive dysfunction.

The Bow-Time Maze is available for purchase and it is full customizable for your research needs.

Protocol: Object Recognition Memory Assay

  • Species: Mice, rats
  • Colors: Wall color options are clear (transparent) or opaque (Black, White, Grey, Créme).
  • Customizations: The maze can be customized to include a light and dark area, similar to the Light-Dark Box test but instead paired with novel objects or odors.
  • Dimensions: The maze is a length of 47 inches (120cm), 20 inches wide (50cm), and 20 inches in height (50cm). The corridor with the guillotine door is a width of 5 inches (12cm).
  • Stimulus: Food wells are small depressions in the floor of the maze (reward pots) that are covered by the objects used to encourage exploration/interaction. The wells are 2cm deep (~0.75in) with a diameter of 3.5cm (~1.33 in). The reward pots/objects are separated by a divider that protrudes from the middle of the wall by 6 inches (15cm).
  • The animal is placed on one end of the bow-tie apparatus that contains one novel object. After one minute, the guillotine door is lifted and the animal can explore the opposite end that has two different objects, Object A and Object B.
  • On this opposite end of the maze with the two objects, one object is the same as the opposite end of the maze while the other object is different. After every minute that the trial runs, objects are changed so that one object once novel, becomes familiar as the animal is introduced to novel objects during each trial.
  • Food is used as a reward to encourage exploration and interaction with objects. Some animals can explore without food rewards.


The results of the Bow-Tie Maze test are a reflection of recognition memory. Data collected can include:

  • Recognition performance: mean performance and retention interval (logarithmic scale)
  • Chance = failure to discriminate novel from familiar

Acclimation Period

  • Trial testing periods are short (1 minute).
  • Animal performance may be low after long retention periods and the number of objects to “memorize” increases.


  1. Albasser, M. M., Chapman, R. J., Amin, E., Iordanova, M. D., Vann, S. D., & Aggleton, J. P. (2010). New behavioral protocols to extend our knowledge of rodent object recognition memoryLearning & memory (Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.)17(8), 407–419. doi:10.1101/lm.1879610
  2. Scott, H., Rogers, M. F., Scott, H. L., Campbell, C., Warburton, E. C., & Uney, J. B. (2017). Recognition memory-induced gene expression in the perirhinal cortex: A transcriptomic analysisBehavioural brain research328, 1–12. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2017.04.007.
  3. Powell, A. L., Vann, S. D., Olarte-Sánchez, C. M., Kinnavane, L., Davies, M., Amin, E., … Nelson, A. (2017). The retrosplenial cortex and object recency memory in the ratThe European journal of neuroscience45(11), 1451–1464. doi:10.1111/ejn.13577.
  4. Kinnavane, L., Amin, E., Olarte-Sánchez, C. M., & Aggleton, J. P. (2017). Medial temporal pathways for contextual learning: Network c-fos mapping in rats with or without perirhinal cortex lesionsBrain and neuroscience advances1, 2398212817694167. doi:10.1177/2398212817694167.
  5. Kinnavane, L., Amin, E., Olarte-Sánchez, C. M., & Aggleton, J. P. (2016). Detecting and discriminating novel objects: The impact of perirhinal cortex disconnection on hippocampal activity patternsHippocampus26(11), 1393–1413. doi:10.1002/hipo.22615

Keywords: novel object recognition, recognition memory, bow-tie maze, hippocampus