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A Case Study of Memory Loss in Mice


Michael S. Hudecki (rr)
Department of Biological Sciences
University at Buffalo


This discussion case explores the scientific process involved in implementing an animal model in the study of Alzheimer’s disease. Students read a short paragraph describing a study in which the brains of “trained” mice were injected with beta-amyloid fragments, which subsequently caused them to forget their tasks. The paragraph is a very short New York Times story reporting on an experimental study originally published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Based on the short description provided, students are asked to identify relevant components of the scientific method (problem, method, results, and conclusions). The case is suitable for a wide variety of science majors and non-majors courses.


  • To demonstrate the scientific method in action.
  • To explore the workings of the nervous system in health and disease, with specific attention given to the degenerative disorder, Alzheimer’s disease.
  • To understand that important advances in human disease research often rely on carefully crafted and implemented animal model systems.


Alzheimer’s disease; alzheimers; nervous system; animal model systems; preclinical animal studies; Food and Drug Administration; FDA; beta-amyloid; memory loss; experimental design

Topical Areas

Scientific method

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division



Type / Methods




Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Science (General)  |   Medicine (General)  |   Neuroscience  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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Brian J. Rybarczyk, Ph.D.
SPIRE Postdoctoral Fellow/Assistant Professor
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill/Shaw University
Chapel Hill, NC
I recently used the case study "Memory Loss in Mice" for one of my courses and thought that you might be interested in some evaluation and feedback on how I used the case.

I am currently teaching an upper level undergraduate biology course entitled "Molecular Basis of Disease." The course is being taught over simultaneous videoteleconferencing between Shaw University in Raleigh, NC and UNC—Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill, NC. The distance education studios are equipped with VTC equipment and SMARTBoards connected through Netmeeting. We have 4 students at Shaw and 18 students at UNC enrolled in the course. I am the instructor at Shaw University and my collegue Dr. Jory Weintraub is the instructor at UNC. We each lead discussions on various topics looking at the molecular mechanisms of disease and we have included one session on Research Methods and Animal Models. To introduce this topic, I used your case to get students thinking about how to interpret scientific data, draw conclusions, and describe how animals are used in biomedical research. This simple case provided much discussion and interaction between students at both sites. Although I happened to use it in an upper level undergraduate course, it certainly could be used in either undergrad or grad level courses. Thank you for providing a great case for our course!

I am currently implementing other cases from the Buffalo Case Study site as well as writing my own that I can hopefully share with others at the Buffalo site.