This pilot study will develop and validate a fully-automated system for positive reinforcement training (PRT) of group-housed non-human primates. Using a system comprising coloured buttons (targets), cue lights and a carousel feeder under automated control of custom microelectronics, we will assess automated PRT as a refinement to conventional behavioural training.
We hypothesise that automated PRT can be performed without food/fluid deprivation or isolation of animals since associations could be formed over long periods of stress-free natural behaviour. We predict that subsequent training with increasing levels of complexity will be facilitated in animals that have already acquired initial associations. In addition, we will assess automated PRT as a predictor of suitability for behavioural experiments, in order to maximise data collection and hence reduce animal numbers required for these experiments. Finally, we will incorporate RFID technology and develop training protocols to demonstrate feasibility and welfare benefits of fully-automated PRT within group-housed environments. This will facilitate the wider uptake of PRT amongst other breeding facilities, laboratories and contract research organisations (CROs).
Tulip J et al. (2017). An automated system for positive reinforcement training of group-housed macaque monkeys at breeding and research facilities. Journal of Neuroscience Methods 285:6-18. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2017.04.015