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NET/work in Atlanta has assisted many Agnes Scott neuroscience students in their undergraduate research pursuits. Rebecca Cross executed her research at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University, specifically with the Rhesus Monkey. These primates have very similar physiology to humans and can perform various cognitive tests. They live in an Open Field Station Environment which allows the monkeys to keep their hierarchy as they might in the wild while also remaining in a controlled testing environment.

For this study the monkeys were implanted with a chip similar to the chips that are often found in cat and dog collars for locating. The test subjects were free to participate in cognitive testing on their own accord. The typical test flashed a photo for the monkey to observe, then the monkey was presented with four photos and required to identify the photo that was the same as the first photo. When a monkey passed the test, then they receive positive feedback in the form of a sucrose treat and a happy sound. When a monkey does not pass a test, then they receive negative feedback with no reward and a bad sound. The cognitive testing locations were inside of the monkeys’ enclosure and accessible to them at all times.

Rebecca looked at the monkeys’ participation and not their results in the cognitive tests. Her two questions in this study were:

– How does testing participation change over the course of a year?

– Does giving birth lead to changes in cognitive test participation?

To answer the first question, Rebecca grouped her results into three seasons: Winter (January-April), Summer (May-August), and Fall (September-December). She found that participation was around the same rate in both the Fall and Winter while it was significantly higher in the Summer. A different approach was used to answer the second question. Rebecca examined the monkeys’ participation in the testing 30 days before giving birth and 30 days afterward. Rhesus Monkeys are seasonal in their breeding and so the females give birth in the summer. What she found was that participation was lower 30 days after giving birth than 30 days before.

The results of this study have great significance for the future of participation testing when it comes to planning the best times of the year to introduce tests to the monkeys. Rebecca also wishes to test her study with changes in variables such as: weather, age, and time of day.

 

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