Research maze puts images on floor, where rodents look

February 26, 2014

A rodent in a maze is a staple—even a stereotype—of experimental psychology research. But the maze in the lab of Rebecca Burwell, professor of cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences at Brown University, is not your grandfather's apparatus. In a new video article published in the Journal of Visualized Experiments, Burwell's research group demonstrates in full detail how the maze can be used to perform automated visual cognitive research tasks with great efficiency.

The is part real and part virtual. There are actual walls – often in the shape of a giant piece of farfalle – but researchers can project any imagery they want onto the floor from below. The use of digital projections makes the maze versatile, but using the floor for projections makes it particularly well-designed for rodent subjects.

"We've known since Lashley's classic studies on the mechanisms of vision that rats pay more attention to stimuli presented near the ground, but the field has persisted in presenting vertical 2-D images or 3-D objects," Burwell said. "What's new is the idea that presentation of images to the ground is the best way to present stimuli to rats and mice. Rodents do not have a fovea [a small depression in the retina where visual acuity is highest] like primates do, but they do have more and photoreceptors in the upper retina, indicating that they can see items in the lower visual field better."

So while human subjects participating in visual psychology experiments look forward—at a screen, for instance—and explore by looking around, the equivalent for a mouse or rat is to look down and explore by moving around.

The system makes a real difference in the speed with which rats learn tasks in the maze, Burwell said. In different experiments, the article notes, rats have learned to respond properly to visual stimuli in a fourth to a sixth the number of trials when stimuli were projected onto the floor rather than onto walls.

While rodents behave in the maze, they are tracked with an overhead camera and software that monitors their behavior. Implanted neural sensors in the rodents' brains allow for precise recording of brain activity during sessions so that it can be correlated with behavior.

Implants also allow for delivery of a rewarding stimulus. Rewards sent directly to the brain can be more effective than food rewards, Burwell said, because rats can be rewarded in the moment of desired performance, and they don't become satiated.

Burwell first published a paper about the floor projection maze in 2009 and has been using it ever since. She owns the intellectual property and said a company is interested in licensing it.

"For anyone interested in using or mice as a model for visual information processing, presenting the information on the floor makes good sense behaviorally and biologically," she said.

The Brown University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee must approve research protocols involving animals, including the floow projection maze.

Explore further: Where 'where it's at' is at in the brain: Study in rats identifies region that associates objects and space

More information: www.jove.com/video/51316/autom … eural-activity-using

Related Stories

Where 'where it's at' is at in the brain: Study in rats identifies region that associates objects and space

December 5, 2012
Conventional wisdom in brain research says that you just used your hippocampus to answer that question, but that might not be the whole story. The context of place depends on not just how you got there, but also the things ...

Researchers devise a way to manipulate a rat's dreams

September 6, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Cognitive scientists working at MIT have devised a means for not only altering the dreams of rats, but of demonstrating a way of testing what they've achieved, offering evidence that it can be done, and ...

The brain's RAM: Rats, like humans, have "working memory"

January 21, 2014
Thousands of times a day, the brain stores sensory information for very short periods of time in a working memory, to be able to use it later. A research study carried out with the collaboration of SISSA has shown, for the ...

How rats see things

April 4, 2013
The image of an object, when projected into the eyes, may take on the most diverse shapes depending on the chosen point of view, as this can change its distance, perspective and so on, yet generally we have no difficulty ...

Brain mapping reveals neurological basis of decision-making in rats

March 20, 2013
Scientists at UC San Francisco have discovered how memory recall is linked to decision-making in rats, showing that measurable activity in one part of the brain occurs when rats in a maze are playing out memories that help ...

Prozac during adolescence protects against despair in adulthood, study finds

January 20, 2014
Adolescents treated with the antidepressant fluoxetine - better known by its commercial name, Prozac - appear to undergo changes in brain signaling that result in changed behavior well into adulthood, says a new study.

Recommended for you

Researchers find monkey brain structure that decides if viewed objects are new or unidentified

August 18, 2017
A team of researchers working at the University of Tokyo School of Medicine has found what they believe is the part of the monkey brain that decides if something that is being viewed is recognizable. In their paper published ...

Artificial neural networks decode brain activity during performed and imagined movements

August 18, 2017
Artificial intelligence has far outpaced human intelligence in certain tasks. Several groups from the Freiburg excellence cluster BrainLinks-BrainTools led by neuroscientist private lecturer Dr. Tonio Ball are showing how ...

How whip-like cell appendages promote bodily fluid flow

August 18, 2017
Researchers at Nagoya University have identified a molecule that enables cell appendages called cilia to beat in a coordinated way to drive the flow of fluid around the brain; this prevents the accumulation of this fluid, ...

Study of nervous system cells can help to understand degenerative diseases

August 18, 2017
The results of a new study show that many of the genes expressed by microglia differ between humans and mice, which are frequently used as animal models in research on Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

Researchers make surprising discovery about how neurons talk to each other

August 17, 2017
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have uncovered the mechanism by which neurons keep up with the demands of repeatedly sending signals to other neurons. The new findings, made in fruit flies and mice, challenge ...

How we recall the past: Neuroscientists discover a brain circuit dedicated to retrieving memories

August 17, 2017
When we have a new experience, the memory of that event is stored in a neural circuit that connects several parts of the hippocampus and other brain structures. Each cluster of neurons may store different aspects of the memory, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.