Dynamics of Spatio-Temporal Binding in Rats

Time and space are commonly approached as two distinct dimensions, and rarely combined together in a single task, preventing a comparison of their interaction. In this project, using a version of a timing task with a spatial component, we investigate the learning of a spatio-temporal rule in animals. To do so, rats were placed in front of a five-hole nose-poke wall in a Peak Interval (PI) procedure to obtain a reward, with two spatio-temporal combination rules associated with different to-be-timed cues and lighting contexts. We report that, after successful learning of the discriminative task, a single Pavlovian session was sufficient for the animals to learn a new spatio-temporal association. This was seen as evidence for a beneficial transfer to the new spatio-temporal rule, as compared to control animals that did not experience the new spatio-temporal association during the Pavlovian session. The benefit was observed until nine days later. The results are discussed within the framework of adaptation to a change of a complex associative rule involving interval timing processes.

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