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Classical conditioning in paramecia

Abstract

SingleParamecium caudatum were conditioned by pairing ac-generated electric shock (US) with a vibratory stimulus (CS) produced by an auditory speaker. Naive paramecia subjected to shock reliably exhibited a backwards jerk and axial spinning similar to the avoiding reaction described by Jennings in 1904. Such responses did not occur initially to CS alone, but increasingly appeared during the CS period preceding shock pairing (delayed conditioning paradigm). Control subjects given the CS and UCS at the same intervals, but explicitly unpaired, did not show a sustained increase of responses to the CS alone. Short-term memory was demonstrated by subjects first conditioned and then presented CS alone during extinction. These subjects were readily reconditioned. Paramecia trained and stored for 24 h showed reliable memory savings as compared to stored control subjects. Other paramecia were differentially conditioned by training with two CSs. Following the recommendations of Rescorla (1967), a procedure was designed for truly random presentation of the CS and UCS as an additional control for pseudoconditioning. Single paramecia were conditioned with intervals between CSs randomly ranging from 8 to 32 sec. Control subjects received the same number of CSs and UCSs, which were administered independently and randomly during the same total session duration. Thus, CS and UCS were occasionally paired for control subjects. The responses to CS in the conditioned group were anticipatory conditional responses due to the pairing contingency and not wholly due to pseudoconditioning.

Reference Note

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Correspondence to William B. Rucker.

Additional information

These investigations, supported in part by the Mankato State University Research Council and an award through the Mankato State University President’s Research Lectureship to the second author, were presented in part at the 5th Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, New York City, November 2–6, 1975, and in part at the Midwestern Association for Behavioral Analysis, 2nd Annual Meeting, Chicago, May 1–4, 1976.

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Hennessey, T.M., Rucker, W.B. & McDiarmid, C.G. Classical conditioning in paramecia. Animal Learning & Behavior 7, 417–423 (1979). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03209695

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Keywords

  • Conditioned Response
  • Classical Conditioning
  • Paired Stimulus
  • Vibratory Stimulus
  • Escape Training