Using a runway paradigm to assess the relative strength of rats' motivations for enrichment objects
Hanmer, L. A., Riddell, P. M. and Williams, C. M. (2010) Using a runway paradigm to assess the relative strength of rats' motivations for enrichment objects. Behavior Research Methods, 42 (2). pp. 517-524. ISSN 1554-351X
To link to this article DOI: 10.3758/BRM.42.2.517
Laboratory animals should be provided with enrichment objects in their cages; however, it is first necessary to test whether the proposed enrichment objects provide benefits that increase the animals’ welfare. The two main paradigms currently used to assess proposed enrichment objects are the choice test, which is limited to determining relative frequency of choice, and consumer demand studies, which can indicate the strength of a preference but are complex to design. Here, we propose a third methodology: a runway paradigm, which can be used to assess the strength of an animal’s motivation for enrichment objects, is simpler to use than consumer demand studies, and is faster to complete than typical choice tests. Time spent with objects in a standard choice test was used to rank several enrichment objects in order to compare with the ranking found in our runway paradigm. The rats ran significantly more times, ran faster, and interacted longer with objects with which they had previously spent the most time. It was concluded that this simple methodology is suitable for measuring rats’ motivation to reach enrichment objects. This can be used to assess the preference for different types of enrichment objects or to measure reward system processes.