Although rodents are the first-choice animal model in the life
sciences, they are rarely used to study higher visual functions.
It is unclear to what extent rodents follow complex
visual strategies to solve visual object recognition and
discrimination tasks [1–5]. We report the performance of
rats in a visual discrimination task applying the multivariate
‘‘Bubbles’’ paradigm previously used in highly visual species
such as humans, monkeys, and pigeons [6–8]. We demonstrate
a relationship between accuracy and local occlusion
of stimuli by bubbles, as such revealing the strategies or
‘‘templates’’ that underlie visual discrimination behavior.
Performance was guided by relatively simple, screencentered
templates as well as more adaptive templates reflecting
context dependency and tolerance for changes in
stimulus position. These findings demonstrate the complexity
of visual strategies followed by rats and reveal interesting
similarities (e.g., potential for position tolerance) as
well as differences (overall efficiency of visual processing)
compared to primates. In conclusion, this study illustrates
the feasibility of investigating visual cognition in rats with
multivariate behavioral paradigms, with the ultimate aim to
use a comparative approach to explore the anatomical and
neurophysiological basis of vision, also for those visual abilities
that are traditionally studied in humans and monkeys.