Although there is a large body of literature about the use of spatial maps, very little is known about the acquisition processes involved in building spatial maps. This project explores the mechanisms underlying the acquisition and expression of spatial maps. Spatial maps are internal allocentric representations of Euclidean space that encode the metric properties of objects and their spatial relationships to each other and the surrounding framework. We will use operant conditioning tasks on the touch screen and in an automated open field, both procedures which were developed in our lab to study spatial acquisition processes in pigeons. The experiments are theoretically motivated by the hypothesis that associative acquisition processes serves as the mechanism for the encoding and expression of spatial relationships. This hypothesis has received strong support during the prior period of funding. In particular, we have found that the encoding of the spatial map between a landmark and a hidden goal obeys the rules of associative acquisition. Furthermore, higher-order associative conditioning plays an important role in the integration of maps among a set of landmarks and goals. This research has important implications for certain disorders that exhibit different types of impairments in spatial cognition. Parkinson's disease patients, for example, have difficulty integrating spatial and temporal sequences of events which leads to impairments in planned, organized behavior. Patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease, on the other hand, show a selective impairment in tasks that utilize allocentric representations of space. Patients with Huntington's disease show a third type of spatial deficit - impaired object-location memory. We hope to use the proposed pigeon procedures to disentangle and define these different aspects of spatial cognition, which could lead to a better characterization of these behavioral deficits.
This research has important implications for disorders that exhibit different types of impairments in spatial cognition. Parkinson's disease patients, for example, show deficits in spatially organized behavior, while Alzheimer's disease patients have difficulty utilizing mental maps of space, and patients with Huntington's disease show impairments of object-location memory. The proposed research will help disentangle and define these different aspects of spatial cognition, which could help us to better understand these behavioral deficits.
|Garlick, Dennis; Fountain, Stephen B; Blaisdell, Aaron P (2017) Serial pattern learning in pigeons: Rule-based or associative? J Exp Psychol Anim Learn Cogn 43:30-47|
|Leising, Kenneth J; Wong, Jared; Blaisdell, Aaron P (2015) Extinction and spontaneous recovery of spatial behavior in pigeons. J Exp Psychol Anim Learn Cogn 41:371-7|
|Blaisdell, Aaron P; Pottenger, Brent C; Torday, John S (2013) From heart beats to health recipes: The role of fractal physiology in the Ancestral Health movement. J Evol Health 1:|
|Biedermann, Traci; Garlick, Dennis; Blaisdell, Aaron P (2012) Food choice in the laboratory pigeon. Behav Processes 91:129-32|
|Stahlman, W David; Blaisdell, Aaron P (2011) The Modulation of Operant Variation by the Probability, Magnitude, and Delay of Reinforcement. Learn Motiv 42:221-236|
|Leising, Kenneth J; Blaisdell, Aaron P (2009) Associative Basis of Landmark Learning and Integration in Vertebrates. Comp Cogn Behav Rev 4:80-102|