Automatic testing of cognitive performance in baboons maintained in social groups


  • Fagot Joël
  • Paleressompoulle Dany

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Laboratory procedures used to study the cognitive functions of primates traditionally have involved removal of the subjects from their living quarters to be tested singly in a remote experimental room. This article presents an alternative research strategy favoring testing primates while they are maintained in their social group. The automatic learning device for monkeys (ALDM) is a computerized test system controlled by an automatic radio frequency identification of subjects. It is provided ad lib inside the social group of monkeys, for voluntary self-testing on a 24-h schedule. Nine baboons were tested with ALDM during a 7-month period. Experiments were performed to assess learning in motor control and abstract reasoning tasks. The results revealed high trial frequencies and excellent learning performance, even in tasks involving the highest cognitive complexities. A different study using ALDM with a group of 3 rhesus monkeys revealed social influences on learning. Beyond its interest for cognitive psychologists, ALDM is of interest for pharmacologists; and cognitive neuroscientists working with nonhuman primates. ALDM also can serve as an enrichment tool for captive animals and may be used to study a variety of species other than primates.

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