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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1981;73(4):363-71.

Inter-animal olfactory cues in operant drug discrimination procedures in rats.


Olfactory cues from prior subjects in operant chambers were shown to be an effective stimulus which rodents could use to direct lever selection in a typical operant drug discrimination (DD) paradigm. Such cues persisted for very long periods of time (16 h), and were deposited after very short (5 min) operant sessions. In extinction tests inter-animal olfactory cues exerted very strong stimulus control over lever selection. Furthermore, such cues were not specific to individual rodent subjects but were generalizable between subjects. Inter-animal cues directing level selection could be abolished by cleaning operant manipulanda with a 10% alcohol solution. Reanalysis of some DD data previously reported by one of the authors (Goudie 1977) indicated that this specific earlier study (and by implication perhaps other studies) might have been confounded by inter-animal cues. In a DD study with nicotine it was found that the drug cue was antagonized by mecamylamine for all subjects except those who had a reliable olfactory cue from prior subjects to direct lever selection (subjects who possessed both an olfactory and a drug cue to direct lever selection responded in a way suggesting that the exteroceptive olfactory cue controlled behaviour rather than the interoceptive drug cue). These findings indicate that inter-animal olfactory cues could be of considerable methodological significance in DD studies. The possible significance of such cues has not previously been reported upon in detail, and in reports of many DD studies there do not appear to be explicit indications that inter-animal cues have been adequately controlled.

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