Unlike mammals, amphibians who rest up during the winter do not forget the memories they made beforehand - this is the surprising discovery of new scientific research. The new study, published online on January 11, 2017 in Scientific Reports, reveals that the processes involved in winter dormancy may have a fundamentally different impact on memory in amphibians and mammals. The open-accesss article is titled “The Effect of Brumation on Memory Retention.” Researchers from the University of Lincoln (UK) and two universities in Vienna, Austria, discovered that brumation - the period of winter dormancy that is observed in cold-blooded animals, similar to the process of hibernation in mammals - does not seem to adversely affect the memory of salamanders. This key finding differs dramatically from previous studies of mammals, which show that hibernation often causes animals to forget some of the memories they formed prior to their period of inactivity. Dr. Anna Wilkinson, from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln, led the study in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Vienna and the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna. Dr. Wilkinson said: "Long-term torpor is an adaptive strategy that allows animals to survive harsh winter conditions. However, the impact that this has on cognitive function is poorly understood. We know that in mammals, hibernation causes reduced synaptic activity and can cause them to lose some of the memories they formed prior to hibernation, but the effect of brumation on memory has been unexplored, until now." The researchers trained twelve salamanders to navigate a maze and remember the path they needed to take to reach a reward. Half of the animals were then placed into brumation for 100 days, while the other half remained under normal keeping conditions.
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