The conditioned freezing response in rats has been much used both by psychologists and neuroscientists to investigate the behavioural effects of brain lesions and of changes in motivational state. The primary advantage of the freezing response is that it can be used without motivational manipulations such as food or water deprivation. Previously, freezing has been measured by a human observer either from video recordings or during the test sessions themselves. But these methods of data collection have potential disadvantages. In the present paper, we describe a new, computer controlled, automated procedure for assessing conditioned freezing. Each conditioning chamber contains a mini-video camera. Behaviour is analysed on-line by means of a programme which compares every two adjacent seconds of video tape to generate a screen representing the percentage difference between them. A difference of < 0.05% (50 pixels) is classified as a freezing response. Experiments are described in which we measure conditioned freezing and its development over time, in response to contextual cues and to a discrete tone which had been paired with foot shock. We demonstrate our apparatus and methods of data analysis to be sensitive to: number of tone-shock pairings, rat strain and tone pre-exposure.
- Latent inhibition