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BEHAVIOR SYSTEMS AND LEARNING LAB

Department of Psychology
Center for the Integrative Sudy of Animal Behavior
Program in Cognitive Science



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Research Interests

The general research interests of the BSL lab are in analyzing the perceptual-motor, regulatory, rhythmic, and neurophysiological structures and processes that underlie behavior, especially, but not exclusively, learned behavior. Our typical strategy is to place the study of learning in a species-relevant behavior systems framework based on laboratory and field data on perceptual-motor organization, regulation and circadian mechanisms. The tools we use range from the paradigms and apparatus of traditional learning theory, especially Pavlovian conditioning, to circadian, pharmacological, and neurophysiological manipulations to clarify the control of preorganized and current learned behavior. The majority of our research has been with laboratory rats, but we treat them as wild animals with changed thresholds for exhibiting certain traits. Our goal is to develop a framework that is both general and species-typical, and that combines the study of control possibilities in the laboratory with the importance of ecological and phylogenetic variables that are easier to identify initially in natural environments.

Opportunities

Current and recent students and postdocs have studied the role of non-light entrainable circadian oscillators in producing anticipation of food presentations and/or addictive drug administration, also, the basis for the ultradian anticipation of feeding bouts and time-place learning related to food. Other students have worked on the tactics and control of spatial foraging in rats, and simulations of risk sensitive foraging. Still other students worked on the role of conditioned appetitive states in backward conditioning, serial forward conditioning, and the interval timing of multiple appetitive behaviors. Other students have studied the control of general search behavior by frustrative states, D1 dopamine receptors in dopaminergic ne urons, and ventral forebrain structures such as the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala. Finally, some students have examined stereotypies and general activity levels of captive animals in zoo settings, and how these relate to niche-related foraging strategies. Some of this research has also focused on how to promote natural levels of activity in captive zoo animals by adjusting their particular food getting strategies.

Interested in research opportunities in the BSL lab?

 

 

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