Socially transmitted food preferences can be used to study long-term memory in rats
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Immediately after a recently fed rodent demonstrator interacts with a conspecific observer, the observer shows a substantially enhanced preference for whatever food its demonstrator ate. Here we show that (1) influence of a single, 30-min interaction with a demonstrator on an observer's food preference lasts for at least 1 month, and (2) observers interacting on 2 successive days with a demonstrator fed a different diet on each day show significantly enhanced preferences for both diets a month later. Such enduring effects of single, brief interactions between a demonstrator rat and its observer provide an efficient means for studying physiological and behavioral substrates of long-term memory in rodents. Together with the results of previous studies of social influences on food choices of rats, the present results also suggest that rats may use information acquired from conspecifics to identify both toxic and safe foods for many weeks after they have acquired this information.
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