A new paradigm to analyze observational learning in rats

Maria G. Leggio, Alessandro Graziano, Laura Mandolesi, Marco Molinari, Paola Neri, Laura Petrosini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A new paradigm of learning was developed through observational training in which rats repeatedly observed companion rats performing different spatial tasks. Observer animals were separately housed in small cages suspended over a water maze tank. They repeatedly observed companion actor rats performing spatial tasks differing according to the experimental requirements. After the observational training, observer animals were or not surgically hemicerebellectomized. This surgical ablation was performed to block any further acquisition of new behavioral strategies during actual performance of swimming task. When cerebellar symptomatology stabilized, observer animals were actually tested in the Morris Water Maze (MWM) task they had previously only observed. The observer rats displayed exploration abilities that closely matched the previously observed behaviors. The results obtained indicate that it is possible to learn complex behavioral strategies by observation using this new protocol. Furthermore, acquisition of the single facets that form the behavioral repertoire can be separately studied.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-90
Number of pages8
JournalBrain Research Protocols
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2003


  • Cerebellum
  • Explorative strategies
  • Imitation
  • Morris Water Maze

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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