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A Cage-Based Training System for Non-Human Primates

1 Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, Montana State University (MSU), Bozeman, MT, USA
2 Gianforte School of Computing, Montana State University (MSU), Bozeman, MT, USA
3 School of Cognitive Sciences, Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences, Tehran, Iran

Non-human primates (NHPs) are widely-used experimental models in neurophysiological studies. Training on cognitive tasks prior to collecting neurophysiological data is an inseparable part of much of the research conducted using NHPs. Any improvement in the training method that reduces stress to the animal, increases the speed of training or improves performance on the task is of great potential value. We have designed, built and successfully utilized a fully portable cage-mountable system to train rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). The flexibility and portability of both the animal interface and the control unit of this system would allow it to be used for a large variety of behavioral paradigms. Aside from experimental use, our system could potentially be used as a source of animal enrichment. We present the behavioral data collected using this method to train a visual working memory and a change detection task. Utilizing the in-cage training system allows the animal greater control over when and how long it chooses to work, rather than imposing a training schedule based on the availability of the experimenter. Using this method the animal learned to perform both behavioral tasks in a short amount of time. In some cases the animal would use the training system without the need for any water restriction. In addition to allowing voluntary, self-paced engagement with the task, this method has the advantage of being less disruptive to the monkey's social interactions, and presumably eliminating some of the stress occasioned by relocating for chair training. Although this system has the potential to ease and expedite the behavioral training of NHPs on a variety of tasks, here we provide only a demonstration of our cage-based training system using one NHP.
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Keywords nonhuman primate; reinforcement learning; attention; working memory; animal husbandry; primate enrichment

Citation: Michaela D Curry, Abigail Zimmermann, Mohammadbagher Parsa, Mohammad-Reza A. Dehaqani, Kelsey L Clark, Behrad Noudoost. A Cage-Based Training System for Non-Human Primates. AIMS Neuroscience, 2017, 4(3): 102-119. doi: 10.3934/Neuroscience.2017.3.102

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