Author

Kusuma Anand

Date of Award

Summer 8-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Paul Nealen

Second Advisor

Christina Ruby

Third Advisor

Daniel Widzowski

Abstract

The zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) is an excellent animal model for study of the ability of birds to discriminate between sound stimuli. Males learn to develop individual birdsongs at young ages to attract mates. Females learn to discern the calls and song of their mates amongst those of other finches. This study was focused on operant conditioning in finches for their ability to discriminate between sound stimuli. Zebra finches were trained to accomplish an auditory-based GO-NOGO discrimination task. The finches learned to respond to a "GO" sound stimulus by activating the sensor, and to respond to a "NOGO" sound stimulus with inaction. Responses to the two stimulus types were learned differently. The error rate in the GO stimulus response started high and steadily decreased, while the NOGO error rate started low, increased and peaked during mid-training, and decreased. This suggested that there were different neural mechanisms for learning each response.

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