Gibbs, M.; Johnston, A. N. B.; Mileusnic, R. and Crowe, S. F.
A comparison of protocols for passive and discriminative avoidance learning tasks in the domestic chick.
Brain Research Bulletin, 76(3),
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A one-trial learning task where chicks learn that a bead of a particular shape and/or colour has a bitter taste (100% Methyl anthranilate – MeA) and subsequently avoids it on test has been widely used by research groups across the world. However, there are some differences in the results reported by different research laboratories. One important difference is found when chicks are trained on a diluted bitter taste (10 or 20% MeA) such that memory is not consolidated and fades, e.g. memory lasts for 30 min at Monash University versus 4-6 hours at the Open University (OU). Differences in protocol that may explain this apparent discrepancy are whether the chicks have seen the bead before (novelty), and whether the colour or the shape of the bead is a more important feature. In this review, we discuss these and other factors that may contribute to the differences in the characteristics of memory processing between Monash and the OU, e.g. strain, hatchery or laboratory incubated chicks, age at training. It is clear that there is a difference between passive avoidance and discriminative avoidance and this may explain the differences in duration of the memory and the different stages. Is the OU task a more salient experience because of the novelty of the bead and therefore a 'stronger' learning experience? The different protocols may allow different questions to be addressed.
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