Behavioral studies – those that focus on characterizing a human’s or animal’s ability to perform a given task – are central to our understanding of the brain. While techniques that measure the activity of the brain directly are powerful and have taught us a great deal, to even use these tools effectively, we must first at least understand what an animal’s brain enables the animal to do. We’re interested in establishing rodents as a model system for the study of high-level biological vision, thus we need to establish what the visual capabilities of rodents are.
To this end, we have designed and build highly-parallel, computer-controlled behavioral “rigs” (a la the famous “Skinner Box”) that enable us to run many experiments simultaneously. This apparatus allowed us to train animals to perform a complex object recognition task, providing strong evidence for high-level visual abilities in rodents (see our recent PNAS paper for details).