Friday, February 26, 2016

Week 2: MORE Pyxis and Carme

This week I worked with Pyxis and Carme again. Currently they are the only two red ruffed lemurs that I am working with but once Carme has been trained, we will train more female lemurs. I hope that this birth cycle brings more female babies. Would be nice to have a large sample to continue as my PhD project.

Pyxis being reinforced to pay attention to the touch screen.

Pyxis is starting to learn that the big black box with a red screen is giving her treats but she hasn't quite associate the apparatus with food reward just yet. We have to rapidly reinforce her (giving her a lot of treats) when she is in front of SMARTA so she learns that the black box is giving her food rewards but it is imperative that she stays in front of SMARTA for that to happen. It may take well over a few weeks for her to make that connection, but in due time she will learn to associate SMARTA with food reward and mentally stimulating activities (think video games!).

Carme continues to be trained that she needs to touch the red square to get a food reward. She associates touching a square for food reward but still hasn't make the connection of touching the red square for food reward. She is close though as most of the time, her "incorrect" choices are just her trying to lean on the screen (her initial touch) and then touching the red square. Usually when she lean on the screen, she is touching the side of the screen with the incorrect choice. Because SMARTA is programmed to react to the initial touch, it will register as her "choice" thus resulting in a lot of incorrect choices should we run the test trials with her right now.

We are also training her that she can lean on SMARTA but she'll have to touch the acrylic part (shell) of SMARTA. Most of our sessions now are slowly approximating her from touching the middle of the screen to moving towards the middle of the square so that she knows she has to deliberately touch a square to make a choice and not just wily nilly touching the screen for food reward. We think it'll take another week or so before she is ready for testing.

Carme touching the center of the touchscreen but
some part of her hand is in the red square.

Carme touching the center of the red square. We are slowly trying to approximate
her from touching the middle of touchscreen (pictured above) to touching the center of the square.

I will be working with Pyxis and Carme again next week. On Monday, we will have a routine animal welfare observation. I think this is an annual routine, which I had one last year. It's good to know that Duke cares about the welfare of animals used in research.

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