One complex task involving sequence of movements and movement refinement in the rat is the single-pellet reaching task, comprising orientation, transport and withdrawal in sequence. In turn, orientation comprises front wall detection, slot localization and nose poke until reach start. Video recordings of a rat in the reaching box highlighted three stages of temporal training: start of training (ST), forepaw dominance appearance (D) and fully trained (T). Regarding orientation, ST versus D and T presented a significant smaller frequency of approach to the front wall and a significant higher number of whisker cycles and nose touches during slot localization, involving a significant longer Orientation. At the ST stage, 44% of the trials were interrupted after nose poke, and poke took place at significant higher level from the shelf. The shelf was identified only when short whiskers contacted it, but the tongue and both forepaws were used without distinction to reach and grasp the pellet until a forepaw emerged as dominant at D stage. Regarding the temporal features of transport and withdrawal, comparing the D versus T stage revealed a significant longer duration. Finally, successes were significantly higher in T respect to D, meaning that after dominance emergence, more training was still necessary to improve reaching/grasping performance. This study provides evidence that, during training, the rats develop a strategy to obtain the pellets and then refine their movement pattern.
Changes in reach-to-grasp behaviour over the course of training in rats / Parmiani, P.; Lucchetti, C.; Franchi, G.. - In: EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE. - ISSN 0953-816X. - 54:11(2021), pp. 7805-7819. [10.1111/ejn.15530]