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TRAINING A MOUSE
We have some laboratory mice in a cage. We've been taking care of them for a couple weeks now, talking to them, petting them, and letting them know that we're friends. Now, we're going to build a maze, using cardboard walls, put together with tape at the corners. The walls have to be 6 inches high or so, and the paths must be at least 4 inches wide. With those dimensions, the mouse won't be able to look over the top and find the food, and he will be able to turn around in the path when he finds he has made a mistake.
As soon as the maze is built, we will take a mouse out of the cage before it has been fed, and put it into the maze, at a point we have decided is the "beginning." One student (we'll take turns throughout these experiments) will lead the mouse, by hand, through the maze to the food, but not allow the mouse to eat. Another student can do the same thing now, then another, and another. By leading the mouse through the maze several times by hand, perhaps he can learn to find it by himself. We want to keep track of the number of times the mouse was led through the maze.
Now, we'll put the mouse in at the beginning, and close the door behind it, then watch to see how long it takes him to find the food. Be sure and write down the exact time (to the second) that we put the mouse in there, and write down the exact time when he gets to the food. Using the same mouse each day, we'll time him to see if he gets faster. Each time he finds the food, he should be rewarded with an extra treat and some petting.
This mouse having learned to go directly to the food without any trouble, we will do the same experiment using an older mouse. This way, we'll learn whether we can teach an old mouse new tricks, in the same amount of time the young mouse learned. If we have a mouse that is thin, because it hasn't been fed as well as the others, let's try it, to see if nutrition has any effect on the ability to learn.
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