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Abstract

When challenged with a cognitive task, rats demonstrate a behavioral flexibility in use and preference of sensory modalities. The present study describes visual and tactile behaviors used by rats in a two choice object discrimination swimming task. The task was designed to preclude use of other sensory modalities and could not be solved via spatial strategies. Fourteen rats learned to criterion a series of 10 discrimination problems. Rats exhibited three stereotypic visual and two stereotypic tactile behaviors over the course of the study. Data analyses indicated that rats demonstrated these behaviors more frequently as they became more familiar with the task. However, once they became proficient, a significant increase in tactile behaviors paralleled a significant decrease in visual behaviors. Reports on the use of visual and tactile behaviors by wild rats are discussed to help interpret the laboratory data from an evolutionary perspective.

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