An inexpensive and automated method for presenting olfactory or tactile stimuli to rats in a two-choice discrimination task.J Exp Anal Behav. 2008 Jul; 90(1):113-24.JE
An inexpensive and automated method for presentation of olfactory or tactile stimuli in a two-choice task for rats was implemented with the use of a computer-controlled bidirectional motor. The motor rotated a disk that presented two stimuli of different texture for tactile discrimination, or different odor for olfactory discrimination. Because the solid olfactory stimuli were placed outside the chamber in metal pods with a mesh at front for odor sampling, "washout" of odors between trials was not necessary. To avoid differential auditory cues from motor rotation, the stimuli were arranged such that on each trial the motor always rotated exactly one quarter revolution (in 1 s), left or right, to present the next stimulus at trial start. To illustrate the use of the equipment, 2 rats were trained on tactile discrimination and 2 rats on olfactory discrimination. The rats sampled the stimulus on the disk through a port on the back wall by sniffing at it (olfactory) or touching it (tactile). The task was a go-left/go-right discrimination with the stimulus on the disk being discriminative for which lever provided reinforcement. The rats reached a stable level above 90% correct after 21 and 32 training sessions for tactile and olfactory discrimination, respectively. The article outlines how the equipment was constructed from low-cost components. Inputs from and outputs to the equipment were implemented through the parallel port of a personal computer without the use of a commercial interface board. The method of automated and low-cost presentation of olfactory or tactile stimuli should be of use for a variety of experimental situations such as matching-to-sample and cross-modal discrimination.