Rodent visual behavior

General Paradigm
The animal is placed in a training box that has visual stimuli and response/reward ports on one wall. The animal requests a trial by putting its nose in the central nose poke, at which time the stimulus appears on the screen. The animal is trained to make a two-alternative forced choice based on some feature of the stimulus, and to indicate its response by going either to the right or left port. Correct responses are rewarded with water. Incorrect responses are penalized by an enforced delay, and indicated by distinct visual and auditory stimuli. Several example tasks are illustrated below.

Rat 2AFC movie
Click on the image to see a rat performing an orientation discrimination task. Two stimuli appear in each trial; the task is to go to the side with the horizontal grating. The stimulus remains on only while the animal's nose is in the center port. Naive rats learn this task to criterion in 2 weeks.

Squirrel psychophysics movie
Click on the image to see a squirrel doing an orientation discrimination task. The task is the same as shown for the rat, but now the spatial frequency of the grating also varies. (We also have a quicktime version of this movie).

Rat random dot movie
Here the task of the rat is to go to the side of the screen towards which the majority of the dots are moving. The task can be made more difficult by making fewer of the dots go the same direction (low coherence), or by making the the dots smaller, fainter, faster or slower.

object recognition movie
Here the rat has learned to go to the side of the screen where the statue is shown to find water; the stimuli are normalized to the same size and contrast. The task can be made more difficult by using more similar objects.

But wait there's More!

See The Ratrix to read about automated shaping and training, high throughput live-in training (The Ratrix), chronic recording, headfixing, and eye tracking.

Credits (initial development of rodent tasks)

Graduate students Philip Meier and Erik Flister initially developed this novel rodent visual behavior paradigm, with lots of help and advice from members of the Zador Lab and Mainen Lab (check out the cool rat auditory and olfactory behavior movies on their websites!). All our visual stimuli are produced using the awesome Psychtoolbox package.

The rats shown in these videos were from experiments involving additional contributions from: undergraduate Liz Reed (rat orientation discrimination task); collaborator Bevil Conway (squirrel orientation discrimination task); rotation student Adam Calhoun (random dot motion task); and collaborators Priya Velu and Bob Clark (object recognition). Thanks to Phil Meier for videography.

Initial development of the rodent vision preparation was made possible by the generous support of the Sloan Foundation, the Hellman Foundation, and the Kavli Institute of Brain and Mind.