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The T-Maze and Effect of Music on Learning Ability of Mice (again.)

Michael Georg Schlag mgschlag at magnet.at
Sat Nov 13 17:14:44 EST 1999

Hi Edmund,
I am currently involved in experimental studies where we train rats to
perform certain tasks. So I might be able to give you some useful hints.

edchong at my-deja.com schrieb:

> In my experiment, I am using the standard T-Maze to test the learning
> ability. However, very often the mice do not seem to want to complete
> the maze in the shortest time. Instead they just remain in the same
> position and do nothing.

Well, I´m not familiar with the T-maze, but I have made the experience that
rats need to be motivated to carry out unpleasant tasks. So, consider
yourself a mouse: what would motivate you to seek for the shortest way out
of the maze?  You wrote that your animals receive their treat in a separate
cage. Maybe they cannot associate their "correct" behaviour in the maze with
the treat in a cage. The treat should be immediately following completion of
the task, i.e. in the maze. Also, their motivation to run through the maze
has to be stronger than their fear. Have you tried food deprivation? You
would have to control the animals weight and give them a certain amount of
food daily in order to ovoid starvation. Unfortunately, I have no protocol
for such an experiement. Also, is the maze designed for mice?

> Secondly, one of my teachers says that my experimental design has a
> flaw. In my experiment, I have 5 groups of mice, 5 mice each. One group
> as control, the rest of the groups exposed to music of different types.
> On Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, I play music to say, Group A and B, (2
> hours a day) and conduct the T-maze test on Group C and D. On Tuesdays,
> Thursdays and Saturdays, the procedure is reversed. Group A and B are
> tested while C and D listen to music. My idea is to see the long term
> effect of music on mice.

Top rule in science (at least the way I learnt it): Keep things as simple as
possible. The question you want to ask is: "My idea is to see the long term
effect of music on mice." Why have 5 groups of mice. It seems that you want
to not only test the long term of music but also what kind of music affects
learning in mice most. I would say: use two groups of mice, one control
group without music and one experimental group with music. Before you start
with the actual testing, check which kind of music has the best effect on
overall behaviour of your mice: Check how they respond when in their cage.
Do they stop grooming, feeding, drinking. Do they show signs of fright
(cuddling, hiding) or curiosity (standing up on their hind limbs, sniffing
etc). How loud does the music have to be?. Then pick that type of music that
has the best effect on your mice and use it for the test.

> My teacher says that it will have no effect at
> all, and advises that I play the music WHILE the mice are running
> through the maze. Or perhaps I should play the music just before I do
> the testing? What should I do?

Difficult to say, depends on what you want to show: I you want to see
whether listening to music has an effect on learning capabilities then your
protocol is o.k.: The music would not be associated with the lerning itself,
at least not strongly. You could test the effect of music on the brain.
However, if you want to see if mice learn easier while listening to music,
you would have to play music during the testing periods. If you can´t
decide, you could actually try both, i.e. have one experimental group
exposed to music during the testing period, and one that is exposed to music
and are tested on alternate days. Of course, you would have to keep the
protocols equal, i.e. test all three groups on the same days.
Don´t be disappointed if your experiments don´t turn out as you expected.
Even a negative result can be viewed as an interesting result. Keep the
group updated on your progress or any problems you should run into.
All the best
Michael Schlag, Vienna, Austria

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