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Behav Processes. 2005 Jan 31;68(1):51-67.

Route finding by rats in an open arena.

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  • 1South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics and Wofford College, Spartanburg, SC 29303, USA.


Rats were repeatedly exposed to an open arena containing two depletable food sources in a discrete-trials procedure. Their movement patterns were recorded and compared to adaptive foraging tactics such as minimizing distance or energy expenditure, thigmotaxis, and trail following. They were also compared to the predictions of the associative route-finder model of Reid and Staddon [Reid, A.K., Staddon, J.E.R., 1998. A dynamic route finder for the cognitive map. Psychol. Rev. 105 (3), 585-601]. We manipulated the presence/absence of food, goal cups, and a wooden runway to determine the influence of local and distal stimuli (visual, olfactory, and tactile) on movement patterns. Increased experience in the arena produced decreases in travel distance and time to the food sources. Local and distal stimuli influenced movement patterns in ways compatible with visual beacons and trail following. The route-finder model accurately predicted movement patterns except those that were influenced by local and distal stimuli. These results show how certain stimuli influence movement and provide a guide for the incorporation of local and distal stimuli in a future version of the dynamic route-finder model.

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