Amazing Mice

This topic submitted by Liz Miller, Amanda Gibson, Rachel Dehart ( at 9:50 am on 12/6/01. Additions were last made on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Section: Dorsey

Final Lab for the A(MAZE)ing Mice
Rachel Dehart
Amanda Gibson
Liz Miller

For our student generated lab, our group has decided to use mice, to try to teach them to run two different mazes by using two different stimuli, consisting of sound and shape. Through the lab we want to prove that by using classical conditioning, we can "teach" the mice to complete two different cardboard mazes. We are going to teach them with one maze using classical conditioning, then we are going to use the independent stimuli, the shapes and sounds, to teach them a different maze. We hope to figure out which stimuli the mice are more receptive to sound or shapes. We also have a control mouse that we will use to see if it can teach itself the two different mazes without classical conditioning or additional stimuli. We find this research interesting because of our interest in animals and the way in which they learn. We began this project with the desire to study the learning process. Children learn through repetition, songs, and many other basic forms of memorization. We broke down these large ideas into the basic form of memorization of a shape and the memorization of a sound. We would like to see if simplifying these larger plans used mainly in teaching could be dissected taught to mice. Our desired outcome is to prove that the teachings of memorization is an effective way of learning; this will be proven when the mice using the learning stimulus will complete the second maze with ease due to the assistance of the stimuli.

There has been many studies done on mice and mazes, but we didn’t find any studies on how if different stimuli can actually teach a mouse to run a maze. Research done by Tolman though is near what we are studying. In his experiment, rats were allowed to explore a maze, which had multiple paths of different distanced to the same destination. After the rats were familiar, Tolman began to block off sections of the lab, and then observing the rats behavior. He was thrilled to see that the rats did not retrace their steps, instead remembered the maze and chose to go a different root to get to the end. This showed that the rats were learning and not just repeating pre-performed steps. Most studies had to do with teaching mice to run mazes through classical and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning is a learning process first described by Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist. He discovered it accidentally through an experiment on digestion. Making conclusions by observing that salivation would begin before the food was eaten. Thus the dog would predict that he would eat, and when the bell sounded, he would no that it was time to start salivating. This is similar to our idea of using sound to teach one of our mice. The idea that when a bell rings you turn right and when there is a clap you proceed left. These games or variations are occasionally played with children in order to learn directions. Operant conditioning is corresponds to Thorndike’s research. Thorndikes experimented with cats and dogs; specifically their behavior when attempting to free themselves from uncomfortable situations. Thorndike measured their intelligence by placing the animals in a box multiple times and recording their escape strategies. Through repetition the animals began to escape quicker, using the strategy which freed them previously. Thorndike states, "When an animal finds itself in the same position again it is more likely to perform the same action again…Reward acts to strengthen stimulus-response associations." Thorndike also developed a law of effect which states, "Of several responses made to the same situation those which are accompanied or closely followed by satisfaction to the animal will, other things being equal, be more firmly connected with the situation, so that, when it recurs, they will be more likely to recur; those which are accompanied or closely followed by discomfort to the animal will, other things being equal, have their connections to the situation weakened, so that, when it recurs, they will be less likely to occur. The greater the satisfaction or discomfort, the greater the strengthening or weakening of the bond." In classical conditioning a neutral stimulus relates directly with a reflex. When trial and error with a reward is involved, (like our lab), no reflex is involved. It theorizes that we learn at an early age how to "operate" in our environment to get rewards and how to avoid punishment or negative consequences. Reinforcements are rewards that increase the likelihood that we will repeat the behavior, these include; primary reinforcers, secondary reinforcers, positive reinforcers, negative reinforcers, and finally punishment.
In addition, we have learned that when there is a lack of protein within a mouse colony the colony will elect a member to be eaten. This will then prolong the life of the colony. From now on we are being careful to make sure our mice are getting enough protein to ensure their health and our experiment.
This research offers us a place to start more than anything else. It identifies the running of a maze is not a repetition of systematic procedures but a learning process. For humans, highway signs and signals in the form of sound, help us to carryout our days getting us to our desired destinations. In a broad sense our research may help the training of animals and give insight on how young developing children learn. Overall our research deals with the learning process, specifically what works and what does not.
Materials and Methods:
(Due to the fact that the other three white mice killed our brown mouse, we were forced to get rid of the color stimulus in order to keep a control mouse, this turned out to be ok because mice are color blind.)
The intention of our experiment is twofold. We want to know whether mice are capable of responding to, and remembering the stimuli of shape and sound. We also want to discover which of the stimuli is most effective. By utilizing the components of classical conditioning, we hope to discover the capabilities of mice’s memory and reasoning.
To execute the experiment, we have purchased four female mice. We will build two separate cardboard mazes in which we will place the mice. They will be placed in the first maze five times a week for three weeks. This maze will contain the three stimuli of shape, color and sound to encourage the mice to move in the correct directions that will lead them to the end of the maze. The stimuli will be reinforced with slices of cheese that will be placed out of sight from the mice (around a corner of the maze). The stimuli will be presented to the mice at places in the mazes where two directional options exist. The shapes and sounds that are presented will signify which direction is correct and which direction is wrong. For shapes, a white triangle will signify turning to the right while a square of the same color will direct the mouse to the left. For sound we will clap for a left turn and ring a bell for a right turn. The effectiveness of the stimuli can be determined by recording how many times the mice choose the correct direction. The cheese will reinforce the correct stimuli. We hypothesize that of the three stimuli, color will be the most effective. One of the mice will be used as a control, and will not be exposed to either the cheese or the stimuli. We will record the time it takes for each mouse to complete her journey through the maze. On the fourth week of the experiment, we will place the mice in a second, different maze. For five consecutive days we will time the mice as they go through the maze. This last week will test whether the mice can respond to the stimuli to determine which direction to turn to complete the maze. Again the control mouse will not use any stimuli in running the maze. Through this process we will determine if the mice can actually remember shapes and sounds, and also which stimuli is the strongest. We hypothesize that the mice exposed to the stimuli and the cheese in the first three weeks of the experiment will complete the second maze more quickly than the control mouse that was not exposed to the stimuli.
We will have class help us collect data by helping us run the mice through the mazes and to help us chart the progress of each mouse and its stimuli. Included at the back of our proposal you will our data-collecting sheet for the times it takes for the mouse to complete the maze. The class will aid us in taking data in a different but helpful way. Each group will be given one mouse and one maze, which consists of one turn, and one holding area. The group will record the actions of the mouse and its response to the stimulus; this data will include amount of time to complete and also specific mice actions. The mice will every twenty minutes so that each group will record data for each stimulus. The holding area will be used to place the mouse in after each completion of the maze to distinguish the different running of the maze. The mice will be run multiple times in a training like exercise which aides in memorization.

First Maze- Mouse times of execution were mostly random. There was no consistency with completion times due to behavior of the mice. (Our control mouse was more active than our other two mice, and while she made frequent mistakes ran around the whole maze faster then our mice under stimuli.) On average, the control mouse ran the maze the quickest, while the other two mice’s times were similar. We changed the mice stimuli multiple times to keep the mice interested, and we found that the mice responded more positively to the crackers than the cheese. From here we continued to use crackers as our stimuli.

Second Maze- At first, the control mouse was running the maze the fastest, while the other two recognized their stimulus but explored the maze slower. However, on the third run, the mice exposed to stimuli ran the maze much quicker than the control mouse, proving that our hypothesis was correct. This pattern continued through the fifth trial.

Discussion and Conclusion:

From our research and analysis of our data, we have concluded that mice learn from repetition and positive reinforcement. The first maze we ran for several weeks, in order to "train" our mice, exposing them to their stimuli and the complexity of the maze. At first, our data was proving that the stimuli we provided had no affect on how the mice ran the maze (when referencing time only). However, we also made observations as to the behavior of our control mouse compared to the laziness of our other two, in that our control mouse was much more active. This contrast in behavior proves that data based only on time was not specific enough. We also concluded that the mice exposed to stimuli were learning two objectives (the maze and their specific stimulus), at once while the control mouse only had to memorize the maze. This affected their speed of execution also hindering their accuracy at first, but after time their accuracy improved. To test the mice’s compressive abilities we brought in a second maze. This maze did not use food as a stimulus, but instead acted as an award with the completion of the whole maze. This maze was run similar to the first, in that each mouse kept its stimuli. With multiple mistakes the control mouse ran the maze swiftly, while the other two tended to explore (stopping multiple times), causing them to complete the maze slower, but with little mistakes. On the third trial events took a dramatic turn, the mice under the stimulus ran the maze much faster than our confused control mouse. This proves that once the stimulus is learned, it can effectively direct the mouse through the maze.
Our work directly ties in with the ideas behind the educational system. Specifically, it parallels the concept of memorization through repetition and positive reinforcement to encourage a desired behavior. This is a direct example of crystallized intelligence (knowledge and skills acquired through previous education). Thus, the mice took what they had learned from the running of the first maze and applied it to the second.
For further investigation, it would be helpful to use multiple different types of stimuli, such as smell or different shapes would be more effective. The test subjects could also change, instead of mice, the experimenters could pick a different subject to compare to the learning abilities of mice. For accuracy purposes, the experimenters could run the same stimulus on two different mice, to see how the data would compare and contrast.

Literature cited:
Anderson. Learning and Memory: An Integrated Approach
Hill, W. (1985). Learning: A survey of psychological interpretations. (4th Ed.). New York: Harper and Row.

Klein/ Mower. Contemporary Learning Theories

McDevitt, Teresa M and Jeanne Ellis Ormrod. Child Development and Education. New Jersey: Merrill Prentice Hall, 2002.

Petty, R., & Cacioppo, J. (1981). Attitudes and persuasion: Classic and Contemporary approaches. Dubuque, IA: William C. Brown
Data Results:

Shape Mouse

first maze time of completion
trial 1 2.08 minutes
trial 2 2.43 minutes
trial 3 .75 minutes
trial 4 .75 minuntes
trial 5 3.67 minutes
trial 6 5 minutes
trial 7 4.85 minutes
trial 8 .78 minutes
trial 9 1.5 minutes
trial 10 1.05 minutes
trial 11 .75 minutes
trial 12 2.05 minutes
trial 13 1.10 minutes
trial 14 .78 minutes
trial 15 .5 minutes
second maze
trial 1 2 minutes
trial 2 2.75 minutes
trial 3 .5 minutes
trial 4 .25 minutes
trial 5 .25 minutes

Sound Mouse

first maze time of completion
trial 1 1.25 minutes
trial 2 2.02 minutes
trial 3 1.36 minutes
trial 4 3.25 minutes
trial 5 .84 minutes
trial 6 5 minutes
trial 7 3.05 minutes
trial 8 1.42 minutes
trial 9 .75 minutes
trial 10 1.05 minues
trial 11 2.84 minutes
trial 12 .5 minutes
trial 13 2 minutes
trial 14 2.15 minutes
trial 15 .9 minutes
second maze
trial 1 2.15 minutes
trial 2 .75 minutes
trial 3 .67 minutes
trial 4 .5 minutes
trial 5 .5 minutes

Control Mouse

first maze completion time
trial 1 3.13 minutes
trial 2 2.08 minutes
trial 3 4.45 minutes
trial 4 .5 minutes
trial 5 1.83 minutes
trial 6 1.83 minutes
trial 7 5 minutes
trial 8 .92 minutes
trial 9 1.5 minutes
trial 10 .75 minutes
trial 11 2.15 minutes
trial 12 .5 minutes
trial 13 .5 minutes
trial 14 1.15 minutes
trial 15 .75 minutes
second maze
trial 1 .5 minutes
trial 2 2 minutes
trial 3 2.15 minutes
trial 4 2.45 minutes
trial 5 1 minute

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