Group Blog!

Just wanted to let you know that because we are now working as a team, we will only be using one blog to post updates on our experiment.  If you would like to check out our progress , please go to … http://kmill2.wordpress.com/

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Ring, Ring!!

Lilly has really learned how to ring the bell and does it constantly.  The training sessions go very quickly because she rings it over and over again without stopping except to quickly eat the pellet of food.  My partners and I are all ensuring that our rats have the bell-ringing down before we present the odors.  We are beginning to write our revised methods section, so stay tuned!

 Also, Kim put a video on her blog of Lilly ringing her bell because I forgot my camera on the day of filming (thank you, Kim).  Check it out at …

http://kmill2.wordpress.com/

So Far, So Good…

In today’s training, I put the bell in for Lilly to ring and then reinforced her when she touched the bell with her nose.  She did a great job and hit the bell with her nose at least 20-30 times and then ran to the appropriate corner for food after I clicked.  The only problem is that the bell does not make a very nice ringing sound when she taps it.  Right now, the bell is hanging on a ribbon, so we are going to change it and hang the bell on a thinner piece of string which hopefully will not weigh the bell down as much and will allow for a ringing sound when Lilly hits it with her nose.  Lilly is habituating to the new environment nicely which allows her to perform the bell ringing behavior more constantly, rather than spending times exploring the new environment. 

And so it begins …

Yesterday, we spent time letting each rat explore the experimental apparatus.  We hope they will habituate to the new environment before we begin the trials for the experiment.  Today, I worked with Lilly on clicker training to come to the appropriate corner for food in the new experimental apparatus (i.e. to the front left corner in the Tupperware container).  By the end of our session, when I clicked the clicker she would occasionally come to the correct corner.  It seems to be a faster process this time than when I first clicker trained her in the aquarium. 

 Good luck on your experiments, everyone! 

Experiment Idea

Now that we have successfully taught our rats to associate the clicker with food and have trained our rats to do amazing tricks, our next task is to do an experiment to test something that we have become curious about over the last few weeks.  My teammates and my research question is:  “How does odor affect a rat’s performance?”  We also hope to determine what smells are aversive to rats. 

Our idea for this experiment came out of Maria’s experience with her rat not performing her trick after Maria had petted a cat before coming to train her rat.  We have also learned that rats have a keen sense of smell, so we are interested in this sense. 

To answer our research question, we are going to teach our rats how to do a new trick that they can repeat over and over.  We will train them to ring a bell and then they will be rewarded with food.  Once we have established a baseline number of times the rat rings the bell in a period of one minute, we will present different odors to the rat.  With each new odor, we will note the number of rings that occur in a one minute period and compare it to the baseline number of rings with no odor presented.  

Good luck with your experiments!