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A Behavioural Study of the Home-Cage Activity of the White Rat

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Traditionally, the activity of the white rat has been investigated with a variety of mechanical recording devices (activity-wheels, stabilimeters, photo-electric relay systems, etc.), but quite limited data are available on rat behavior per se. The purpose of the present study was to develop an observational time-sampling technique that would provide a comprehensive description and catalogue of the various activities exhibited by individual animals and to use this to investigate the home-cage activity of the male laboratory rat under normal and experimental conditions. The following were studied: (1) age-related changes in normal animals at three age levels (approximately 30, 60, and 100 days) ; (2) effects of food- and water-deprivation in young (age 30 days) and adult (age 100 days) animals; (3) effects of food- and water-deprivation in adult animals (age 100 days) which had previously experienced similar deprivation at ages 30 and 60 days. Home-cage activity was measured simultaneously along a large number of different behavioural dimensions, hence an increase or decrease in "activity" typically reflected changes in a number of categories. The main age-related changes in home-cage activity were a sharpening of the diurnal activity cycle and a decrease in vigorous ambulatory behaviour. The effects of the various deprivation conditions proved to be quite different. At both 30 and 60 days, food-deprived animals showed much greater activity in a number of categories than did water-deprived and control animals. Water-deprived animals were somewhat more active than controls, but maintained an alert, immobile position more than the other two groups. At 100 days of age animals undergoing their third food deprivation showed marked increases in activity and some of these effects persisted during post-deprivation, whereas animals undergoing their third water deprivation showed relatively small increases in activity. Animals food-deprived for the first time at 100 days showed fewer activity changes; but 100 day old animals water-deprived for the first time presented a mixed picture, being more active than controls in the afternoon but less active at night. It was concluded that the drive properties of hunger and thirst have distinct, different, and cumulative effects on the home-cage activity of the white rat.

Affiliations: 1: (University of Oregon, U.S.A.


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