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Methods - Behaviour - Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology, Magdeburg
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Avoidance conditioning in a shuttle-box by Mongolian gerbils (Figure) serves as one model system for learning and memory in the IfN. In this paradigm, the animals quickly and successfully learn to avoid a mild footshock, which is announced by one or several different auditory stimuli, by crossing the center hurdle and thereby changing the compartment within the shuttle-box, during or shortly after the announcing auditory stimulus. The shuttle-box is also used to study discrimination learning. Here, the animals are confronted with different auditory stimuli (in the simplest case two) and learn to avoid the footshock by changing the compartment in response to one of the stimuli (Go-signal) and to remain within the compartment in which they happen to be in response to the other (NoGo-signal). The successful avoidance of a footshock constitutes their reward.

When animals which have first successfully learned to treat all auditory stimuli as Go-signals are then confronted with a discrimination paradigm, using the same stimulus material as before, they will have to associate a novel meaning with a known stimulus to avoid footshocks. The meaning of the stimuli in a discrimination paradigm, once learned, can also be reversed (contingency reversal) confronting the animals with new challenges again.

More inforamtion available on the project page of Holger Stark

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