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A Novel Avoidance Test Setup: Device and Exemplary Tasks

Studies in Computational Intelligence. 2020. Vol. 856. P. 159-164.
Bulava A., Volkov S., Alexandrov Y.

This paper presents a novel rodent avoidance test. We have developed
a specialized device and procedures that expand the possibilities for
exploration of the processes of learning and memory in a psychophysiological
experiment. The device consists of a current stimulating electrode-platform and
custom software that allows to control and record real-time experimental protocols
as well as reconstructs animal movement paths. The device can be used to
carry out typical footshock-avoidance tests, such as passive, active, modified
active and pedal-press avoidance tasks. It can also be utilized in the studies of
prosocial behavior, including cooperation, competition, emotional contagion and
empathy. This novel footshock-avoidance test procedure allows flexible currentstimulating
settings. In our work, we have used slow-rising current. A test animal
can choose between the current rise and time-out intervals as a signal for action in
footshock avoidable tasks. This represents a choice between escape and avoidance.
This method can be used to explore individual differences in decisionmaking
and choice of avoidance strategies. It has been shown previously that a
behavioral act, for example, pedal-pressing is ensured by motivation-dependent
brain activity (avoidance or approach). We have created an experimental design
based on tasks of instrumental learning: pedal-pressing in an operant box results
in a reward, which is either a piece of food in a feeder (food-acquisition behavior)
or an escape-platform (footshock-avoidance behavior). Data recording and
analysis were performed using custom software, the open source Accord.NET
Framework was used for real-time object detection and tracking.