What makes a landmark effective? Sex differences in a navigation task
In Experiment 1, two groups of female rats were trained in a triangular pool to find a hidden platform whose location was defined in terms of a single a landmark, a cylinder outside the pool. For one group, the landmark had only a single pattern (i.e., it looked the same when approached from any direction), while for the other, the landmark contained four different patterns (i.e., it looked different when approached from different directions). The first group learned to swim to the platform more rapidly than the second. Experiment 2 confirmed this difference when female rats were trained in a circular pool but found that male rats learned equally rapidly (and as rapidly as females trained with the single-pattern landmark) with both landmarks. This second finding was confirmed in Experiment 3. Finally, in Experiment 4a and 4b, male and female rats were trained either with the same, single-pattern landmark on all trials or with a different landmark each day. Males learned equally rapidly (and as rapidly as females trained with the unchanged landmark) whether the landmark changed or not. We conclude that male and female rats learn rather different things about the landmark that signals the location of the platform.
KeywordsRat Spatial learning Acquisition Sex differences Landmark learning
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