We are developing a behavioral paradigm to study selective auditory attention in rats, modified from an an olfactory task developed by Naoshige Uchida in Zach Mainen's lab. Shown above is a snapshot from the basic 2 alternative forced choice (2-AFC) task. The rat initiates a trial by making a nosepoke into the central port. This triggers the computer to present a stimulus, which consists of either a low (1 KHz) or high (15 KHz) imbedded in white noise. (The rat auditory range, from about 500 Hz to 70 KHz, is shifted higher than that the 20 Hz - 20 KHz range of humans). The rat has been trained to respond with a right poke for low tones and a left poke for high tones; correct responses are rewarded.
Training for this task is fast (2-3 weeks). Well-trained rats can perform very well (>90% correct) for several hundred of trials per day. We are currently using tetrodes to record responses of many neurons at once from such trained animals.
Click here for a movie. The movie is 9 MB so may take a little while to download, but I think it's pretty cool. Note that because of limitations of your computer speaker and your own hearing, you may not be able to hear the 15 KHz tone, so you may hear only the noise; but I assure you that the rat hears it!
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