Cognitive Neurodynamics

, Volume 12, Issue 5, pp 519–523 | Cite as

An observational learning task using Barnes maze in rats

  • Motoki YamadaEmail author
  • Yoshio Sakurai
Brief Communication


Observational learning, which modulates one’s own behavior by observing the adaptive behavior of others, is crucial for behaving efficiently in social communities. Although many behavioral experiments have reported observational learning in monkeys and humans, its neural mechanisms are still unknown. In order to conduct neuroscientific researches with recording neural activities, we developed an observational learning task for rats. We designed the task using Barnes circular maze and then tested whether rats (observers) could actually improve their learning by observing the behavior of other rats (models) that had already acquired the task. The result showed that the observer rats, which were located in a metal wire mesh cylinder at the center of the maze and allowed to observe model rats escaping to the goal in the maze, demonstrated significantly faster escape behavior than the model rats. Thus, the present study confirmed that rats can efficiently learn the behavioral task by observing the behavior of other rats; this shows that it is conceivable to elucidate the neural mechanisms of social interaction by analyzing neural activity in observer rats performing the observational learning task.


Rat Observational learning Barnes maze Social interaction Behavior 



We would like to thank Dr. Yuji Takano for his advice on the procedures for the Barnes maze task. This study was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Nos. 16H01283, 16H02061 and 18H05088.


This study was funded by JSPS KAKENHI (Grant Nos. 16H01283 and 16H02061).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Neural Information, Graduate School of Brain ScienceDoshisha UniversityKyotanabeJapan

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