Monday, April 24, 2017

Spotted Hyena Inhibitory Control

I've had a lot of posts about  the multi-access box that I'm using to test innovation in urban hyenas in Ethiopia and wild hyenas in Kenya. However, I'm also testing inhibitory control. Inhibitory control is the ability to suppress an ineffective, but prepotent, motor response. Like self-control in humans, it's thought to be important to innovation because in order to learn something new, one must often inhibit previous learning. I'm testing inhibitory control using a scaled-down detour task. Detour tasks require an individual subject to go around a transparent barrier in order to retrieve a reward. Many subjects find it hard to resist going straight for the reward initially even though it's not retrievable through the barrier. In this case, the barrier is a clear cylinder with a food reward on the inside. Hyenas who bump into the outside of the cylinder show poor inhibitory control and those who detour straight to the side of the cylinder show good inhibitory control.

For more information on inhibitory control in spotted hyenas see this post:

Self-control matters in spotted hyenas

I've collected a lot of trials in the past year; here's a video showing hyenas failing and succeeding at inhibition with the cylinder task:

Most hyenas have both successful and unsuccessful trials out of the 10 trials that I give them. I still have yet to see if the total number of successful trials they have will relate to innovation, age, sex, or other factors!

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Michigan State University | College of Natural Science