Animal Cognition

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 911–919 | Cite as

Color and intensity discrimination in Xenopus laevis tadpoles

  • Gabriel R. Rothman
  • Douglas J. Blackiston
  • Michael LevinEmail author
Original Paper


Investigations into the physiology of Xenopus laevis have the potential to greatly accelerate biomedical research, especially concerning neural plasticity and sensory systems, but are limited by the lack of available information on behavioral learning in this species. Here, we attempt to lay the foundations for a behavioral assay in Xenopus that can be used in conjunction with biological manipulations. We tested cohorts of Xenopus tadpoles across four light-mediated active-avoidance experiments, using either wavelength or intensity as the salient discriminative cue. In the wavelength task, we determine a baseline learning rate and characterize retention of learning, identifying active extinction effects as far more potent than the passage of time in the loss of behavior. In the intensity task, we examine the effects of varying differences between the discriminative stimuli on acquisition and extinction and identify a critical range of intensity differences where learning changes. The results of our experiments demonstrate that Xenopus is a tractable model organism for cognitive research and can learn a variety of associative tasks in the laboratory settings. These data reveal new aspects of the Xenopus larval visual processing system and facilitate future research between cognitive methods and biological/chemical manipulations to study mechanisms of brain structure and function.


Xenopus Learning Wavelength Intensity 



ML gratefully acknowledges the support of The G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Charitable Foundation. DB was supported by National Institutes of Health (5T32DE007327-09). We also thank Erin Switzer for animal husbandry support.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gabriel R. Rothman
    • 1
  • Douglas J. Blackiston
    • 1
  • Michael Levin
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Biology, Center for Regenerative and Developmental BiologyTufts UniversityMedfordUSA

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