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The misplace mapping system in rhesus monkeys

Donna Marie Platt, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Many animals appear to have a sophisticated spatial representation of their environment (i.e., a map). The development of these maps depends on the joint abilities of discriminating novel objects and remembering their locations. Variations of a detection of novelty paradigm were used to determine the nature and limitations of mapping skills in rhesus monkeys. Socially-housed monkeys in three different settings (indoor pens--UMASS, indoor/outdoor cages--NERPRC, outdoor enclosure--NIHAC) were exposed to mapping simulations using a vertical object grid arranged on a mesh wall of the animals' pens.^ In most cases, monkeys rapidly responded with increased exploration to the replacement of one familiar object with a novel object, to the movement of a familiar object to a novel location, and to the swapping of two familiar objects. However, novelty of object was more salient than novelty of place. In these initial studies, monkeys were given continuous access to the grid, and only one or two changes occurred on a given day. In subsequent studies, the task difficulty was varied either by reducing the length of grid exposure or increasing the number of changed objects/session. Surprisingly, only a reduction in length of exposure markedly affected mapping abilities. The variables of age and object experience had a greater affect on the accuracy of the mapping system when the memory requirements of the task were increased, as in the latter studies. Individuals varied substantially in their responses to novelty. This may be due to factors such as the nature of the objects or the choice of tactile/oral manipulation as the dependent variable. This result suggested that the mapping abilities of rhesus monkeys were underestimated.^ Rhesus monkeys clearly possessed misplace mapping abilities. These abilities were negatively affected only when monkeys' access to the grid was limited. The procedure employed here provided a convenient way to assess complex cognitive abilities in a group setting, It also relied on rhesus monkeys' inherent attraction to novelty and required only their species-typical behavior for assessment. ^

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Recommended Citation

Platt, Donna Marie, "The misplace mapping system in rhesus monkeys" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9737570.