A spatial judgement task to determine background emotional state in laboratory rats (Rattus norvegicus)

Burman, Oliver and Parker, Richard and Paul, Elizabeth and Mendl, Mike (2008) A spatial judgement task to determine background emotional state in laboratory rats (Rattus norvegicus). Animal Behaviour, 76 (3). pp. 801-809. ISSN 0003-3472

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Full text URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2008.02.014

Abstract

Humans experiencing different background emotional states display contrasting cognitive (e.g. judgement) biases when responding to ambiguous stimuli. We have proposed that such biases may be used as indicators of animal emotional state. Here, we use a spatial judgement task, in which animals are trained to expect food in one location and not another, to determine whether rats in relatively positive or negative emotional states respond differently to ambiguous stimuli of intermediate spatial location. We housed 24 rats with environmental enrichment for seven weeks. Enrichment was removed for half the animals prior to the start of training (‘U’: unenriched) to induce a relatively negative emotional state, whilst being left in place for the remaining rats (‘E’: enriched). After six training days, the rats successfully discriminated between the rewarded and unrewarded locations in terms of an increased latency to arrive at the unrewarded location, with no housing treatment difference. The subjects then received three days of testing in which three ambiguous ‘probe’ locations, intermediate between the rewarded and unrewarded locations, were introduced. There was no difference between the treatments in the rats’ judgement of two out of the three probe locations, the exception being when the ambiguous probe was positioned closest to the unrewarded location. This result suggests that rats housed without enrichment, and in an assumed relatively negative emotional state, respond differently to an ambiguous stimulus compared to rats housed with enrichment, providing evidence that cognitive biases may be used to assess animal emotional state in a spatial judgement task.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Laboratory rat, Rattus norvegicus, cognition, emotion, animal welfare
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C120 Behavioural Biology
D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D328 Animal Welfare
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:3423
Deposited By: Oliver Burman
Deposited On:06 Oct 2010 19:15
Last Modified:18 Nov 2013 13:56

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