Rat performance on visual detection task modeled with divisive normalization and adaptive decision thresholds
ABSTRACT Performance on any perceptual task depends on both the perceptual capacity and the decision strategy of the subject. We provide a model to fit both aspects and apply it to data from rats performing a detection task. When rats must detect a faint visual target, the presence of other nearby stimuli ("flankers") increases the difficulty of the task. In this study, we consider two specific factors. First, flankers could diminish the sensory response to the target via spatial contrast normalization in early visual processing. Second, rats may treat the sensory signal caused by the flankers as if it belonged to the target. We call this source confusion, which may be sensory, cognitive, or both. We account for contrast normalization and source confusion by fitting model parameters to the likelihood of the observed behavioral data. We test multiple combinations of target and flanker contrasts using a yes/no detection task. Contrast normalization was crucial to explain the rats' flanker-induced detection impairment. By adding a decision variable to the contrast normalization framework, our model provides a new tool to assess differences in visual or cognitive brain function between normal and abnormal rodents.
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ABSTRACT: The potential of genetically engineered rodent models has accelerated demand for training procedures of behavioral tasks. Such training is generally time consuming and often shows large variability in learning speed between animals. To overcome these problems, we developed an efficient and stable training system for the two-alternative forced-choice (2AFC) visual stimulus detection task for freely behaving rodents. To facilitate the task learning, we introduced a spout-lever as the operandum and a three-step training program with four ingenuities: (1) a salient stimulus to draw passive attention, (2) a reward-guaranteed trial to keep motivation, (3) a behavior-corrective trial, and (4) switching from a reward-guaranteed trial to a nonguaranteed one to correct behavioral patterns. Our new training system realizes 1-week completion of the whole learning process, during which all rats were able to learn effortlessly the association between (1) lever-manipulation and reward and (2) visual stimulus and reward in a step-by-step manner. Thus, our new system provides an effective and stable training method for the 2AFC visual stimulus detection task. This method should help accelerate the move toward research bridging the visual functions measured in behavioral tasks and the contributing specific neurons/networks that are genetically manipulated or optically controlled.07/2014; 2(7). DOI:10.14814/phy2.12060
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ABSTRACT: Successful use of rodents as models for studying object vision crucially depends on the ability of their visual system to construct representations of visual objects that tolerate (i.e., remain relatively unchanged with respect to) the tremendous changes in object appearance produced, for instance, by size and viewpoint variation. Whether this is the case is still controversial, despite some recent demonstration of transformation-tolerant object recognition in rats. In fact, it remains unknown to what extent such a tolerant recognition has a spontaneous, perceptual basis, or, alternatively, mainly reflects learning of arbitrary associative relations among trained object appearances. In this study, we addressed this question by training rats to categorize a continuum of morph objects resulting from blending two object prototypes. The resulting psychometric curve (reporting the proportion of responses to one prototype along the morph line) served as a reference when, in a second phase of the experiment, either prototype was briefly presented as a prime, immediately before a test morph object. The resulting shift of the psychometric curve showed that recognition became biased toward the identity of the prime. Critically, this bias was observed also when the primes were transformed along a variety of dimensions (i.e., size, position, viewpoint, and their combination) that the animals had never experienced before. These results indicate that rats spontaneously perceive different views/appearances of an object as similar (i.e., as instances of the same object) and argue for the existence of neuronal substrates underlying formation of transformation-tolerant object representations in rats.The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 01/2012; 32(1):21-34. DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3932-11.2012
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ABSTRACT: Rats can discriminate simple shapes visually, even if they are moved around, made smaller, or partially covered up; the strategy they use may help shed light on human brain mechanisms for discriminating complex features, such as faces.Current biology: CB 01/2012; 22(1):R18-20. DOI:10.1016/j.cub.2011.11.047