Ralph R. Miller State University of New York at Binghamton
Nancy A. Marlin University of Missouri--Rolla
Surely the first question to be asked by our friends will be: What are a couple of nice students of rodent memory doing in a volume like this which is concerned primarily with information processing in rowdy, hairless apes? Clearly we would not be here if we felt that students of animal memory had nothing in common with researchers concerned with the psychobiology of human information processing. This is not to suggest that rodents are miniature humans save for the addition of whiskers and a tail. Rather, owing to our common evolutionary roots, it is our belief that the fundamental processes and basic structures responsible for the phenomenon of memory share certain similarities across Mammalia. Analogously, a motorcycle is not a minature car, but it is propelled by the same principles of internal combustion of hydrocarbons and translation of reciprocating motion into circular motion as is an automobile. Pushing the analogy a little further, the exposed motorcycle engine facilitates its study relative to the enclosed engine of an automobile: moreover, the absence of superfluous accessories on motorcycles relative to most automobiles would assist in focusing upon the essential principles of land transportation powered by internal combustion.
We would not think to turn to rodents if we wished to understand political science. But, just as infrahuman models greatly contributed to our understanding of human respiration and blood circulation, so we feel there is substantial merit in using animals to assist in a molecular analysis of the physiological basis of human information processing and, more specifically, memory consolidation. The examples in this chapter come principally from animal laboratories, largely