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Learning During Exploration: The Role of Behavioral Topography During Exploration in Determining Subsequent Adaptive Behavior in the Sprague-Dawley Rat (Rattus norvegicus)

  • Author(s): Renner, Michael J.
  • et al.
Abstract

Two investigations examine the hypothesis that one function of exploration is to create situations in which there is an opportunityto acquire useful information. In the first, male rats {Rattus nonvgicus, Sprague Dawley strain) with enriched (EC) or impoverished ( IC) experience ( leading to differences in exploratory behavior documented previously) were given an opportunity to explore an arena with a hidden escape route on two consecutive days. On the following day, subjects were chased by a mechanical device and the time required to escape the arena was recorded. No group differences were seen in pre-chase behaviors other than those related to the hidden escape route, or in stress-related behaviors while being chased. EC rats escaped significantly more quickly than IC rats, and a composite .score derived from pre-challenge behavior in the arena was correlated significantly with escape time under challenge. In the second experiment, EC and IC subjects were chased without previous experience in the area; EC rats escaped significantly more quickly than IC rats. In an analysis of the combined results from the two experiments, both environmental history and pre-challenge arena experience were found to exert significant influence on escape time. These findings demonstrate that different behaviors during exploration can lead to functionally significant differences in the information acquired as a result of exploration.

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