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Use of a maze test to assess spatial learning and memory in cattle: Can cattle traverse a complex maze?

Author:
Hirata, Masahiko, Tomita, Chihiro, Yamada, Karin
Source:
Applied animal behaviour science 2016 v.180 pp. 18-25
ISSN:
0168-1591
Subject:
Wagyu, animal behavior, cows, ingestion, memory, motivation
Abstract:
Maze tests were conducted to assess spatial learning and memory in Japanese Black cows (Bos taurus). The test arena (14×14m) was designed so that it could contain no maze or one of four different mazes of increasing complexity (L1–L4 mazes), with a food reward at the opposite end of the release point to entice test cows. Cows were individually released into the arena and tested for 5min to measure the time to reach the food reward (completion time) and the time spent eating the reward (eating time). Experiment 1 subjected 15 cows initially to the no-maze situation, then to the L4 maze, and finally to the no-maze situation again. None of the cows were able to traverse the L4 maze although 10 cows retained the motivation to reach the reward, showing significant (P<0.01) differences in completion time between the no-maze and the L4 maze situations. Experiment 2 tested another 14 cows in the no-maze situation and found 8 cows highly motivated for the reward. Experiment 3 subjected 10 cows which showed strong motivation for the reward in Experiments 1 and 2, initially to the no-maze situation, then to the L1, L2, L3 and L4 mazes, and to the no-maze situation again. Five cows were able to complete the L4 maze whereas all cows retained the motivation for the reward, showing a significant (P<0.01) difference in completion time between the no-maze and the L4 maze situations. There was a strong negative correlation between the completion time and eating time throughout the three experiments (P<0.001). The results show Japanese Black cows are able to learn to traverse a complex maze when they are provided with step-by-step learning opportunities, although this ability is limited to about 20% of animals. Once learned, they can retain the memory of the maze configuration for up to 6 weeks. Further studies are needed to determine the limitations of the memory.
Agid:
5254904