ABA Blog on Thelma

Posted February 2, 2009 by elizabethdaylor
Categories: Uncategorized



This first week Jan. 16-23 I fed Thelma eight pellets of food in the afternoon. I did not weigh the food nor did I weigh Thelma. My goal is to feel comfortable handling her and to get to know her.


            My first week of meeting with Thelma begun on Friday, January 16th she was very skittish during the first week I handled her. On Saturday, Sunday and Monday I came to the lab at one o’clock and played with her for an hour.  I noticed some special behavioral attributes; she absolutely loves to wedge her body in between my arm and side. My feeling is that she does this for warmth. Second, I learned that Thelma can run around the top of the wooden box almost five times without stopping.  Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I played with Thelma from three o’clock to four o’clock. During these days I noticed that her heart rate was quick and she ad a lot of energy.  


Thelma enjoying some play time in the wooden box!

Sprague-Dawley Background Report/Assignment 1:

       Sprague-Dawley rats are incredibily influential to the study of human beings health, aging, toxicology becuase they serve research in behvioral and reporduction patterns. Both the male and female rats are the most widely used in experimentation, however, for our purposes we are focusing on the female albino rat. The female rats reach an average of 250 g once they are beyond 105 days old. Average lifespan for the sprague-dawley during experimentation is about 3 years compared to a natural lifespan of only 6 months.

       A few interesting anatomical facts of these rats include the difference in number of lobes in each lung. In the left lung there is only one and in the right there are four. Secondly, a  gallbladder does not exist and neither does the action of vomiting.

       In order to give proper nutrtion rats must be fed about 5g daily along with fresh water. Mating can occur after the onset of the first femal estrus cycle which can happen as early as 35 days into the female’s life, yet, on average this does not occur until 65-100 days of age for both females and males. The cycle itself lasts 4-5 days but the actual estrus lasts only 12 hours in the evening. Gestation periods are usually 22days and can produce an average of 10.5  pups weighing about 5g each at birth.

       Overall, these outbred rats are nice to work with becuase of their calm and maternal character traits.


       Ace Animals Inc: Quality Research Rodents and Contract Breeding Services (2006). Sprague Dawley.  January 28, 2009.

       Harlan Laboratories Inc. (2009). Outbred Rats: Sprague Dawley. January 28, 2009.

This second week with Thelma (Jan. 23-30) my goal is to begin weighing her and her food intake daily as well as begin clicker training.

       Her starting weight was 170g on Friday the 23rd and I fed her 10g of food. I did not clicker train on this day. Saturday the 24th I fed her 7g of food and the 25th I did not feed her anything so as to prepare for clicker training on Monday the 26th. Monday she weighed 171g before training. During training I fed her a total of 5.3g which got us through 45 trials. The 27th I went in at 2:30 and stayed until 4:20, her weight was up to 173g and together we went through 108 trials with a total of 7g of broken up food pellets. Monday we used the aqarium for traing and I did not see any real signs that she  was noticing the click, I think she just knew the corner where the food would be. Tuesday, however, I noticed a difference, she would actually flinch at the click and then eat the food in the front, right-hand side of the aquarium. Wednesday(28th), Thursday(29th) and Friday (30th) I spent hours in the lab clicking once and waiting for Thelma to approach the front, right-hand corner. Once she came to the corner I waited for her to jump up and then I fed her the pellet. She has improved greatly with this technique and I am beginning to brainstorm the trick I want to have her accomplish. 


Clicker training phase 1: 

1. I let Thelma explore the aquarium

2. I clicked and she flinched 

3. I fed her the pellet with my hand


Clicker Training phase 11:

1. I clicked the clicker

2. Waited for her to come to the correct corner (front-right)

3. Fed her the Pellet with my hand 

4. Clicked a second time when she started to eat


Clicker Training phase 111:

1. I clicked

2. Waited for her to come to the corner

3. Waited for her to stand up on her hind legs and lean in the corner

4. Waited for her to open her mouth 

5. Dropped the food in her paws/mouth

6. Repeat

This third week with Thelma (January 30th-February 6th) I have continued feeding her a total of 10g a day and have been keeping up with her clicker training. My goal for this week is to post my video and name the trick I want her to do.

       On Friday Thelma dropped in weight, she weighed in at 170 g. During clicker training I shot two failed attempts of clicker trials and one short video of a successful trial. Saturday, Thelma dropped 1g, weighing in a 169g. We clicker trained using the same method of click-once, jump up for food in the specified corner, and then receive food to eat. Thelma is usually consistent in obeying to the click, however once in a while, perhaps 10% of the time spent training she will get distracted with washing herself or licking the bottom of the aquarium when she is thirsty for water. 


Trick: The trick I taught Thelma involves me clicking once so that she is prompted to come to the center of the aquarium and crawl up on the white glass food holder. She then balances her weight and stands on her hind legs to receive a food pellet. 


This fourth week (February 6th-February 13th) my goal is to get Thelma’s weight up by adding 5 more grams to her daily food intake. 



Results Section April 28th 2009

Posted April 29, 2009 by elizabethdaylor
Categories: Uncategorized


                Rat 1 and Rat 2 were both observed responding to the sound of a click in condition four for two consecutive days. On day one and day two of condition four there were forty trials on each day, so there were eighty total trials. Thirty-four of the eighty trials both Rat 1 and 2 were observed choosing the cooperation task, nine trials both Rat 1 and 2 chose the individual task, thirteen trials both rats failed to respond to the click, nine trials Rat 1 chose the individual task and Rat 2 failed to respond, two trials Rat 1 failed to respond and Rat 2 chose the individual task, six trials Rat 1 chose the individual task while Rat 2 chose the cooperation task, two trials Rat 1 chose the cooperation task while Rat 2 failed to respond, four trials Rat 1 chose the cooperation task and Rat 2 chose  the individual, and one trial Rat 1 failed to respond while Rat 2 chose the cooperation task.

                The frequencies of the combined data from day one and day two showed that 42.5 percent of the time both Rat 1 and Rat 2 chose the cooperation task of standing in a hoop that had a circumference of 40.38. 11.2 percent of the time both rats chose the individual task and 16.2 percent of the time the rats did not respond. 11.2 percent of the time Rat 1 chose the individual task while Rat 2 did not show a response. 2.5 percent of the time Rat 1 showed no response while Rat 2 chose the individual task. 7.5 percent of the time Rat 1 chose the individual task while Rat 2 chose the cooperation task. 2.5 percent of the time Rat 1 chose cooperation while Rat 2 showed no response. 5.0 percent of the time Rat 1 chose the cooperation task while Rat 2 chose the individual task. 1.2 percent of the time Rat 1 showed no response while Rat 2 chose the cooperation task.  This is shown in Figure 2.

                Our hypothesis stated that both Rat 1 and Rat 2 would choose the cooperation task in response to a click. Results showed that the rats did choose to respond more often to the cooperation task because thirty-four of the eighty trials were observed showing cooperation. Thirty-four is more the double the number recorded for any other response.  This is shown on the graph in Figure 3.

Condtion 1 and 2

Posted April 13, 2009 by elizabethdaylor
Categories: Uncategorized

We have successfully shaped Thelma and Louise’s behavior to abide by Condition 1 and Condition 2 explained in our method section. We are currently working to edit our method section as well as working on the third condtion to our experiment. Both Thelma and Louise have been maintaining their weight as well as working for the food pellet in our daily trials.

ABA Method Section

Posted March 24, 2009 by elizabethdaylor
Categories: Uncategorized

Our hypothesis in this experiment states that both Rat 1 and Rat 2 will choose the cooperation task in response to the sound of a click.




            For our experiment we used two female Sprague-Dawley laboratory rats. Neither rat was deprived of food or water throughout the experiment. They were housed in separate metal cages in a psychology laboratory containing other female Sprague-Dawley rats. The cage was small, containing rat pellets (that were only given once a day) and an attached water bottle for drinking. The ages of the rats were approximately three months at the start of the experiment.


            We used a 2×3 within subjects design. The independent variable for our experiment was the number of rats in the box (one or two) and the type of task that could potentially be performed in the box by each rat (individual, cooperation, or having the choice to decide between the two). The dependent variable was the response to the click: either choosing to do nothing, their individual task, or the cooperation task.


            Materials included rat pellets (20 grams per rat per day) which were either left whole or broken up into small pieces. The small pieces (averaging about 0.16 grams) were used as the biologically salient unconditioned stimulus in classical conditioning. Using 5 grams of pellets per rat, we performed about 50 trials where the rat would respond to the sound of a click. We then placed the remaining 15 grams in their cages. We did not deprive them of food and performed the trails every 24 hours so that a day would pass before the rats were fed again during the trials. After we finished the day’s trails, we cleared out the box and let the rats spend 15 minutes together in the box before being placed back in their cages (and thus having access to the rest of their food). The pellets were also used as reinforcement for operant conditioning when shaping their behavior.

            Other materials included water in a water bottle for drinking (300mL), an animal-training clicker for classical conditioning, a large wood box (17.14”12.0612.06”cm), two small containers (c=17.94”cm), and ten small wood chips (1.5 grams total or 0.15 grams each).


            We had four separate conditions in our experiment that involved the technique of classical and operant conditioning to teach the rats two different tasks. Condition 1 used operant conditioning to shape each rat’s behavior until they jumped onto their container and received a piece of food. Once they were able to do this we used classical conditioning: the pellet (unconditioned stimulus) was paired with the sound of a click (conditioned stimulus) and together they elicited the appropriate behavioral response of jumping onto the container and standing upright (conditioned response). As soon as the rats stood upright on the container (on their hind legs) they were reinforced. The rats were not together in the box during Condition 1; we worked with each rat one at time (using the same box, however). Rat 1’s container was located in the center of the box and Rat 2’s container was located in the center right of the box, about an inch from the right wall.

            Condition 2 included using the same classical conditioning procedure as in Condition 1 to teach each rat to jump up onto their specified container together while in the same box at the same time. The purpose of this Condition was to get the rats used to being together in the same box at the same time without working together. They both heard the same click and were reinforced for making the correct response reguardless of how the other rat responded (correct or incorrect). Either one, both, or neither rat was reinforced at any given trial in this Condtion. Again, the correct reponse was standing upright on their respective containers in order for reinforcement to occur. The containers were located in the same positions as they were in Condition 1 (center and center right for Rat 1 and Rat 2, respectively).

            In Condition 3, we used operant conditioning to shape both rats’ behavior of picking up one wood chip each and bring it from the front left corner to the back left corner of the box. We shaped their behavior by giving them a piece of food (unconditioned stimulus) and sounding the clicker (conditioned stimulus) every time they approached the pile of wood chips together (conditioned response). They then received a piece of food every time they made physical contact with the wood chips, picked one up and dropped it, and eventually picked one up and brought it towards the back left corner. Once they were able to do this, together, we used classical conditioning to reinforce their coordinating behavior of picking up a wood chip at the same time and carrying it together to the back left corner at the sound of a click. They were only reinforced when the two coordinated picking up a chip and carrying it together to the opposite corner. We only allowed 10 seconds to elapse between the first and second rat picking up a wood chip in order for reinforcement to occur.

            In Condition 4 both rats were placed in the same box containing their specified containers and the wood chips. We gave them the choice of task: either picking up a wood chip together and carrying it to the opposite corner or standing upright on their specified container. We did not condition their behavior as they had learned both in Conditions 1, 2, and 3. We then recorded which task each rat chose to do in response to the click: their own task of standing upright on their container, the cooperation task of carrying the wood chips together, or no behavioral response. Together, they could choose to do any combination of the aforementioned three possible responses.


            A large wooden box was used which included two small containers inside it and a wood chip pile with ten wood chips. Attached is a diagram of the apparatus we used (Fig.1), drawn to scale.




ABA Experiment in Cooperation (featuring Thelma & Louise)

Posted March 24, 2009 by elizabethdaylor
Categories: Uncategorized

Thelma’s Trick Video

Posted March 23, 2009 by elizabethdaylor
Categories: Uncategorized

Video 1



Video 2




Email to Schuster and Reply

Posted February 23, 2009 by elizabethdaylor
Categories: Uncategorized

My name is Elizabeth and I am a psychology major at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia. I am currently enrolled in an ABA class and have a Sprague-Dawley albino rat. My partner (Marissa) and I have to come up with a question that we want to experiment with over the course of the semester. As we were researching we came across your methods for testing cooperation and coordination in lab rats. We both have our own rat but we were interesting in testing whether or not our rats would participate in “teamwork.” We wanted to know if you could help us understand your experiment further and what materials you used.

We are very interested in your study, and look forward to hearing from you!
Elizabeth and Marissa

What he said in response:
Check if this is in library:
2006    Schuster, R and Berger, B.D. An animal model for studying the behavior of cooperating. In: Tasks and Techniques: A Sampling of Methodologies for the Investigation of Animal Learning, Behavior and Cognition. Ed. Matt Anderson Chap. 16, pp. 189-208. Nova Science Publishers, Hauppauge, New York.

Experiment Ideas

Posted February 23, 2009 by elizabethdaylor
Categories: Uncategorized

Rough Idea:

Intro: Past Research by Schuster, R and Berger, B.D.

IV: presenting two rats with reinforcement (food)

DV: ability and willingness to successfully complete tasks

 Hypothesis: Using reinforcement and shaping, two healthy female Sprague-Dawley rats will be able to complete at least three “tasks” involving interaction with one another (teamwork).


2 Sprague-Dawley rats (females)

– food (reinforcement)

– large wood box

– props for “obstacle course”

– clicker


– use food to reinforce rats’ interactions with one another

– shape behavior

– “clicker-training method”—single click when they both accomplish task; double click (before and right-before accomplishing task); then eliminate first click and just use single click right as rats perform task

– Ideas of “tasks”:

            1. both pick up wood chip and bring it over to a bin (reinforced when they pick up

                chip and again when they drop it in bin)

            2. both lift up tube at same time (reinforced after picking up tube)

            3. one rat runs through tube and picks up small object at end of tube and brings it

                to the second rat; second rat picks up small object and brings to corner where

                it rings a bell

            4. both rats press a lever; only after the second rat presses lever are they

                reinforced (with food)

            5. ???