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J Vis Exp. 2015 Oct 22;(105):e53002. doi: 10.3791/53002.

Combined Shuttle-Box Training with Electrophysiological Cortex Recording and Stimulation as a Tool to Study Perception and Learning.

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Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology, Magdeburg, Germany; Otto-von-Guericke University, Magdeburg, Germany;
Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology, Magdeburg, Germany.
Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology, Magdeburg, Germany; Otto-von-Guericke University, Magdeburg, Germany; Center for Behavioral Brain Sciences (CBBS), Magdeburg, Germany.


Shuttle-box avoidance learning is a well-established method in behavioral neuroscience and experimental setups were traditionally custom-made; the necessary equipment is now available by several commercial companies. This protocol provides a detailed description of a two-way shuttle-box avoidance learning paradigm in rodents (here Mongolian gerbils; Meriones unguiculatus) in combination with site-specific electrical intracortical microstimulation (ICMS) and simultaneous chronical electrophysiological in vivo recordings. The detailed protocol is applicable to study multiple aspects of learning behavior and perception in different rodent species. Site-specific ICMS of auditory cortical circuits as conditioned stimuli here is used as a tool to test the perceptual relevance of specific afferent, efferent and intracortical connections. Distinct activation patterns can be evoked by using different stimulation electrode arrays for local, layer-dependent ICMS or distant ICMS sites. Utilizing behavioral signal detection analysis it can be determined which stimulation strategy is most effective for eliciting a behaviorally detectable and salient signal. Further, parallel multichannel-recordings using different electrode designs (surface electrodes, depth electrodes, etc.) allow for investigating neuronal observables over the time course of such learning processes. It will be discussed how changes of the behavioral design can increase the cognitive complexity (e.g. detection, discrimination, reversal learning).

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