Batty ER, Hoban L, Spetch ML, Dickson CT
Behav. Processes 2009 Nov;82(3):327-34
Over the past 20 years, a great deal of research has examined how different animals can use the geometric properties of the environment to determine their heading. Less well studied is how rats use the geometric properties of an environment to navigate, or determine the location, when it is not necessary to establish heading. Specifically, it is unclear to what extent rats still rely on geometric cues when they are not disoriented. In the current study, rats were trained to find food in one corner of a rectangular environment under either oriented or disoriented conditions. Probe tests placed geometric, featural and orientation cues in conflict. Results showed that featural cues exerted little control over the rats’ search preferences. All rats, whether trained while oriented or trained while disoriented, used geometric cues when these were the only cues available. Rats trained in the disoriented condition preferred geometric cues to orientation cues, whereas rats trained in the oriented condition showed more equal preference for orientation and geometric cues.