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Can rats and ants exchange information between the horizontal and vertical domains?


Since traveling in nature involves encountering various vertical structures, integration of horizontal and vertical spatial information is required. One form of such integration is to use information acquired in one plane for spatial navigation in another plane. Here we tested whether rats and ants that learned a reward location in a horizontal maze could utilize this information when the maze was rotated to a vertical orientation and vice versa. Rats that were trained in a horizontal Y-maze required more time to reach the reward when the maze was vertically rotated, but they were more accurate in choosing the correct arm. In contrast, rats tested in a horizontal maze after being trained in a vertical maze were less accurate but reached the reward faster. Changes after maze rotation were moderate and non-significant in ants, perhaps since the number of ants arriving at the reward increased over trials, diminishing the effect of maze rotation in ants compared to rats. According to the notion that horizontal spatial information is encoded in more detail than vertical information, the slow performance of rats in the vertical domain could be due to a more physically demanding task whereas their accuracy was due to a preceding detailed horizontal encoding. In contrast, rats in the vertical maze could gather less detailed information and therefore were less accurate in subsequent horizontal trials, where the lower energy cost enabled them to swiftly correct wrong choices. Altogether, the present results provide an indication for transferring spatial information between horizontal and vertical dimensions.

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We are grateful to Ms. Ravid Yechezkely, Ms. Diana Zaikin, Ms. Tal Goldstein, and Mr. Eden Lahav for their help in experimentation and analyses.


This study did not receive any external funding.

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Correspondence to David Eilam.

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All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee. Rats were maintained and tested under the regulation and approval of the institutional Committee for Animal Experimentation at Tel-Aviv University, Permit # TAU – LS – IL – 2203 – 123 – 2.

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Hagbi, Z., Gilad, T., Zadicario, P. et al. Can rats and ants exchange information between the horizontal and vertical domains?. Anim Cogn 26, 1083–1089 (2023).

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