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Learning & Behavior

Benjamin U Phillips, Christopher J Heath, Zofia Ossowska, Timothy J Bussey, Lisa M Saksida
Operant testing is a widely used and highly effective method of studying cognition in rodents. Performance on such tasks is sensitive to reinforcer strength. It is therefore advantageous to select effective reinforcers to minimize training times and maximize experimental throughput. To quantitatively investigate the control of behavior by different reinforcers, performance of mice was tested with either strawberry milkshake or a known powerful reinforcer, super saccharin (1.5% or 2% (w/v) saccharin/1.5% (w/v) glucose/water mixture)...
February 15, 2017: Learning & Behavior
James F Briggs, Brian P Olson
Two experiments using rats evaluated the susceptibility of CS preexposure to retrograde amnesia induced by the protein synthesis inhibitor cycloheximide and tested whether amnesia for CS preexposure shares similar characteristics with amnesia for other memories. In Experiment 1, rats received cycloheximide either immediately, 60 minutes, or 120 minutes after preexposure. Following preexposure, rats received fear conditioning. When later tested, the subjects that received the amnestic treatment shortly after preexposure showed no CS preexposure effect (i...
February 8, 2017: Learning & Behavior
Hidekazu Kaneko, Hiroto Sano, Yasuhisa Hasegawa, Hiroshi Tamura, Shinya S Suzuki
To investigate how motor sensation facilitates learning, we used a sensory-motor association task to determine whether the sensation induced by forced movements contributes to performance improvements in rats. The rats were trained to respond to a tactile stimulus (an air puff) by releasing a lever pressed by the stimulated (compatible condition) or nonstimulated (incompatible condition) forepaw. When error rates fell below 15%, the compatibility condition was changed (reversal learning). An error trial was followed by a lever activation trial in which a lever on the correct or the incorrect response side was automatically elevated at a preset time of 120, 220, 320, or 420 ms after tactile stimulation...
January 14, 2017: Learning & Behavior
Edward A Wasserman, Roger K R Thompson
Scientists hoping to elucidate the origin of human stone tool manufacture and use have looked to extant primate species for possible clues. Although some skepticism has been raised, there is clear evidence that today's capuchin monkeys can make and use stone tools.
January 11, 2017: Learning & Behavior
A Matías Gámez, Samuel P León, Juan M Rosas
Four experiments in human instrumental learning explored the associations involving the context that develop after three trials of training on simple discriminations. Experiments 1 and 4 found a deleterious effect of switching the learning context that cannot be explained by the context-outcome binary associations commonly used to explain context-switch effects after short training in human predictive learning and in animal Pavlovian conditioning. Evidence for context-outcome (Experiment 2), context-discriminative stimulus (Experiment 3), and context-instrumental response (Experiment 4) binary associations was found within the same training paradigm, suggesting that contexts became associated with all the elements of the situation, regardless of whether those associations played a role in a specific context-switch effect detected on performance...
December 30, 2016: Learning & Behavior
Scott H Deibel, Andrew B Lehr, Chelsea Maloney, Matthew L Ingram, Leanna M Lewis, Anne-Marie P Chaulk, Pam D Chaulk, Darlene M Skinner, Christina M Thorpe
It is difficult for rats to learn to go to an arm of a T-maze to receive food that is dependent on the time of day, unless the amount of food in each daily session is different. In the same task, rats show evidence of time-place discriminations if they are required to press levers in the arms of the T-maze, but learning is only evident when the first lever press is considered, and not the first arm visited. These data suggest that rats struggle to use time as a discriminative stimulus unless the rewards/events differ in some dimension, or unless the goal locations can be visited prior to making a response...
December 7, 2016: Learning & Behavior
Robert J McDonald, Scott H Deibel
This paper highlights a recent report by Roy and colleagues showing that boosting plasticity in synapses activated during initial memory encoding ameliorates memory impairments found in the early stages of the familial version of Alzheimer's disease. Our goal was to describe the main features of the report and evaluate the approach and implications of the work.
December 7, 2016: Learning & Behavior
Phil Reed
Two experiments examined acquisition of win-stay, win-shift, lose-stay, and lose-shift rules by which hungry rats could earn food reinforcement. In Experiment 1, two groups of rats were trained in a two-lever operant task that required them to follow either a win-stay/lose-shift or a win-shift/lose-stay contingency. The rates of acquisition of the individual rules within each contingency differed: lose-shift and lose-stay rules were acquired faster than win-stay and win-shift rules. Contrary to a number of previous reports, the win-shift rule was acquired less rapidly than any of the other rules...
December 2016: Learning & Behavior
Christopher N Templeton
Recent findings have indicated that European starlings perceive overall spectral shape and use this, rather than absolute pitch or timbre, to generalize between similar melodic progressions. This finding highlights yet another parallel between human and avian vocal communication systems and has many biological implications.
December 2016: Learning & Behavior
Jessica C Lee, Evan J Livesey
The prototype distortion task demonstrates that it is possible to learn about a category of physically similar stimuli through mere observation. However, there have been few attempts to test whether different encoding conditions affect learning in this task. This study compared prototypicality gradients produced under incidental learning conditions in which participants performed a visual search task, with those produced under intentional learning conditions in which participants were required to memorize the stimuli...
November 17, 2016: Learning & Behavior
Andrés Molero-Chamizo
Latent inhibition of conditioned taste aversion (CTA) is sensitive to changes in the temporal context. A change in the time of day of conditioning with respect to the time of day of the preexposure can disrupt the latent inhibition. This contextual change in the time of day may reveal a temporal specificity of latent inhibition. The optimum procedure to induce this temporal specificity is not well established. For example, it has been shown that a long period of habituation to temporal contexts is one factor that can determine the effect...
November 11, 2016: Learning & Behavior
Carina Giesen, Kerstin Scherdin, Klaus Rothermund
This study investigated whether vicarious feedback influences binding processes between stimuli and observed responses. Two participants worked together in a shared color categorization task, taking the roles of actor and observer in turns. During a prime trial, participants saw a word while observing the other person executing a specific response. Automatic binding of words and observed responses into stimulus-response (S-R) episodes was assessed via word repetition effects in a subsequent probe trial in which either the same (compatible) or a different (incompatible) response had to be executed by the participants in response to the same or a different word...
October 31, 2016: Learning & Behavior
Jackie Chappell
Kabadayi, Taylor, von Bayern, and Osvath (2016, Royal Society Open Science, 3, 160104) recently showed that among birds, absolute brain size predicts performance on a motor self-control task thought to be important for cognition. However, birds performed at an equivalent level to much larger-brained primates, opening up the debate about brain size and cognition.
September 23, 2016: Learning & Behavior
Michael F Brown, Alexander A Brown
Yu et al. (2016) demonstrated that algorithms designed to find efficient routes in standard mazes can be integrated with the natural processes controlling rat navigation and spatial choices, and they pointed out the promise of such "cyborg intelligence" for biorobotic applications. Here, we briefly describe Yu et al.'s work, explore its relevance to the study of comparative cognition, and indicate how work involving cyborg intelligence would benefit from interdisciplinary collaboration between behavioral scientists and engineers...
September 22, 2016: Learning & Behavior
Masashi Tsukamoto, Kenichiro Kohara, Koji Takeuchi
The within-trial contrast hypothesis (WTC) provides a more parsimonious explanation for the phenomenon that humans and animals prefer outcomes that follow more effortful events to outcomes that follow less effortful events (Zentall, 2013). We conducted two WTC experiments with human adults. In Experiment 1, we manipulated the difficulty of a preceding event by varying the interresponse time and the limited-hold interval during differential reinforcement with a low response rate schedule, to examine the effect of effort on the preference for the subsequent stimuli...
September 12, 2016: Learning & Behavior
Shuai Wang, Shan-Hu Hu, Yi Shi, Bao-Ming Li
It has been shown that the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and its dopamine system are crucial for decision making that requires physical/emotional effort, but not for all forms of cost-benefit decision making. Previous studies had mostly employed behavioral tasks with two competing cost-reward options that were preset by the experimenters. However, few studies have been conducted using scenarios in which the subjects have full control over the energy/time expenditure required to obtain a proportional reward...
September 7, 2016: Learning & Behavior
Vassilissa Dolivo, Claudia Rutte, Michael Taborsky
The reciprocal exchange of goods and services among social partners is a conundrum in evolutionary biology because of its proneness to cheating, but also the behavioral and cognitive mechanisms involved in such mutual cooperation are hotly debated. Extreme viewpoints range from the assumption that, at the proximate level, observed cases of "direct reciprocity" can be merely explained by basic instrumental and Pavlovian association processes, to the other extreme implying that "cultural factors" must be involved, as is often attributed to reciprocal cooperation among humans...
September 2016: Learning & Behavior
Nathan J Emery, Nicola S Clayton
An exciting new study on ravens by Bugnyar, Reber, and Buckner (2016) raises important questions about whether nonhuman animals are capable of simulating other minds, rather than theorizing about them.
September 2016: Learning & Behavior
Howard Eichenbaum
For nearly a century, neurobiologists have searched for the engram-the neural representation of a memory. Early studies showed that the engram is widely distributed both within and across brain areas and is supported by interactions among large networks of neurons. Subsequent research has identified engrams that support memory within dedicated functional systems for habit learning and emotional memory, but the engram for declarative memories has been elusive. Nevertheless, recent years have brought progress from molecular biological approaches that identify neurons and networks that are necessary and sufficient to support memory, and from recording approaches and population analyses that characterize the information coded by large neural networks...
September 2016: Learning & Behavior
W David Stahlman, Kenneth J Leising
Extensive research has shown that the variability of organismal behavior is great when contingent reinforcement is delayed, small, or improbable. This research has generally employed stable response-reinforcer relationships, and therefore is limited in its explanatory scope with respect to a dynamic environment. We conducted two experiments to investigate whether pigeons' conditioned pecking behavior shows anticipatory or perseverative patterns of behavioral variability when the reinforcement probability reliably changes within experimental sessions...
September 2016: Learning & Behavior
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