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Title: What do rats see? The features of perception in rodents.
Other Titles: Wat zien ratten? Aspecten van de waarneming bij knaagdieren
Authors: Bossens, Christophe
Issue Date: 11-Dec-2017
Abstract: Rodents have always been a popular model in psychological research to study various phenomena such as memory and spatial navigation. In addition, more than 100 years ago there were already attempts to investigate the visual capabilities, a topic which is recently experiencing renewed interest from the research community.
Although it is well established that rodents can perform a variety of pattern discrimination tasks, much less is known about the constituent features they employ in solving these tasks. To that end, we performed a series of studies to establish more firmly what kind of visual information they can and cannot use.
First, physiological evidence shows that the visual system of rodents is tuned for orientation and motion direction processing. We designed a task in which animals had to use one of these features. This was combined with an analysis of zif268 expression levels to investigate the underlying neural mechanisms.
Second, we performed studies in rats and mice to investigate to what extent they are capable of figure-ground segregation. In the mice study, electrophysiological measurements were further obtained to gain further insight into the neural mechanisms underlying task performance.
Third, we compared human and rat performance in a task for which the solution, conceptualized as a stimulus representation that is linearly separable, had a straightforward linear dependence on the stimulus or required a non-linear transformation.
In a final experiment, we succeeded in adapting the prototype task to rodents. This is an important task in human literature, and with this we open the possibility to also study higher-order processes such as categorization specifically in this species.
The potential applications of these results are two-fold: first, even studies that do not investigate the visual system specifically do rely on stimulus material that is implicitly assumed to be processed by the system (e.g., the visual cues in a Morris Water Maze). Knowledge about the capabilities and limitations of the system might aid in designing optimal stimuli for these experiments. Second: rodents can provide a more tractable animal model in which specific aspects of visual information processing, such as figure-ground segregation or invariant object recognition), can be studied.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: TH
Appears in Collections:Centre for Surgical Technologies
Laboratory for Biological Psychology
Laboratory for Experimental Psychology

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