Rat Maze

Different types of mazes and what they’re used for Rats have been used in experimental mazes since at least the early 20th century. Thousands of studies have examined how rats run different types of mazes, from T-mazes to radial arm mazes to water mazes. These maze studies are used to study spatial learning and memory in rats. Maze studies helped uncover general principles about learning that can be applied to many species, including humans. Today, mazes are used to determine whether different treatments or conditions affect learning and memory in rats.

Rats are particularly gifted at running mazes. Their maze-running ability comes from their evolutionary history: rats are small burrowing rodents that have spent millenia digging and finding their way around underground tunnels. It’s no wonder they have a knack with mazes.

The Classic maze
This is the kind of maze everyone thinks of when they think of rats and mazes. The maze consists of a large platform with a series of vertical walls and a transparent ceiling. The rat starts in one location, runs through the maze, and finishes at a reward in another location.

How many trials does it take for a hungry rat to run the maze to the food reward at the end with no mistakes? How quickly does the rat complete the maze each time? Does the rat get faster over multiple trials? Over time, rats tend to run the maze with fewer and fewer errors, more and more quickly. By graphing the number of errors over time, you can generate a learning curve for the rats.

The T-maze
The T-maze is shaped like a T. The test animal starts at the base of the T. A reward may be placed in one arm of the maze, or different rewards may be placed in each arm. The rat walks foward and chooses the left or right arm of the maze.

What kinds of questions can you answer with a T-maze?

Side preferences: The simplest question one can ask in a T-maze is whether a rat has a natural side preference. With no reward in either arm, does a rat prefer to go right or left?

Alternation: You can study natural alternation by running a rat in a T-maze over multiple trials with no reward. Do rats alternate between left and right arms? You can also train rats to alternate by rewarding first one arm, then the other, over many trials. The rat should learn to choose the arm that was not visited on the previous trial.

Learning: T-mazes are also used to study simple learning. You can place a reward at the end of one of the arms, then run a hungry rat through the maze multiple times. How many trials does it take before the rat chooses the correct arm most of the time? Further, if the reward is removed, and the rat is run through the maze multiple times, for how many trials does the rat continue to prefer the now empty arm? If the reward is replaced, how many trials does it take for the rat to re-establish a preference for that arm?

Preference: T-mazes are used to ask rats to choose between two options. A different reward is placed in each arm of the maze. Rewards can be anything: different foods, another rat in a small cage, shelter, an odor. The rat is allowed to explore the whole maze. Then the rat is placed in the start location, and the researcher records the rat’s choice: for example, the amount of time the rat spends at the end of each arm over a period of time (say, 5 minutes). You can ask the rat all sorts of questions, like:
-Whether a rat prefers chocolate cake to peas
-Whether a rat prefers familiar-smelling bedding to fresh, unsoiled edding
-Whether a female rat in heat prefers one male rat or another
-Whether a male rat prefers a strange or familiar female
-Whether a young rat prefers an adult male or an adult female
-Whether a rat prefers to eat food from a bowl other rats have already visited, or identical food from a new, clean bowl.

Source: http://www.ratbehavior.org/RatsAndMazes.htm

Related posts

Leave a comment