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Journal Article

Using touchscreen equipped operant chambers to study comparative cognition. Benefits, limitations, and advice


Logan,  Corina J.       
Department of Human Behavior Ecology and Culture, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Seitz, B. M., McCune, K. B., MacPherson, M., Bergeron, L., Blaisdell, A. P., & Logan, C. J. (2021). Using touchscreen equipped operant chambers to study comparative cognition. Benefits, limitations, and advice. PLoS One, 16(2): e0246446. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0246446.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-36F1-C
Operant chambers are small enclosures used to test animal behavior and cognition. While traditionally reliant on simple technologies for presenting stimuli (e.g., lights and sounds) and recording responses made to basic manipulanda (e.g., levers and buttons), an increasing number of researchers are beginning to use Touchscreen-equipped Operant Chambers (TOCs). These TOCs have obvious advantages, namely by allowing researchers to present a near infinite number of stimuli as well as increased flexibility in the types of responses that can be made and recorded. Here, we trained wild-caught adult and juvenile great-tailed grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus) to complete experiments using a TOC. We have learned much from these efforts, and outline the advantages and disadvantages of these two approaches. We report data from our training sessions and discuss important modifications we made to facilitate animal engagement and participation in various tasks. Finally, we provide a “}training guide{” for creating experiments using PsychoPy, a free and open-source software that we have found to be incredibly useful during these endeavors. This article, therefore, should serve as a useful resource to those interested in switching to or maintaining a TOC, or who similarly wish to use a TOC to test the cognitive abilities of non-model species or wild-caught individuals.Competing Interest StatementThe authors have declared no competing interest.