Lieu: Brunoy

Title: Classical results in experimental psychology (Blodgett/Tolman, Sokolov, Brogden, Groves/Thompson, Berlyne) have documented that animals continuously learn complex features in their sensory environment. This faculty does not depend on external reinforcement to drive learning, only the existence of structure in the world. We seek to understand how an organism forms a model of the world’s statistics when the vast majority of the time it is neither rewarded nor punished for doing so.To this end we have recently developed a behavioral paradigm for the head-fixed mouse that permits observation of exploration and non-reinforced learning. The Virtual Burrow Assay simulates a scenario in which a mouse, poised at the threshold of its burrow, evaluates whether to exit the enclosure or to retreat inside in response to a potential threat. The device consists of an enclosure (virtual burrow) constrained to slide back and forth along the anterior-posterior axis of the body of head-fixed mice, and measures their propensity to exit and explore versus retreat to safety. By simulating the contingencies at the threshold of the burrow the assay exploits innate behaviors of the mouse thereby circumventing the need for training. The assay yields a sensitive readout of habituation, discrimination and exploration, as well as avoidance of both conditioned and innately aversive cues. It is compatible with standard electrophysiological and optical methods for measurement and perturbation of neuronal activity; its millisecond-timescale record of behavior permits precise alignment of neural state to behavioral state.

 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.45658

Assay design and software: