Previous work from our laboratory has demonstrated that rats display a preference for directional responding over place navigation in a wide range of procedural variants of the Morris water task (Hamilton, Akers, Weisend, & Sutherland, 2007; Hamilton et al., 2008). A preference for place navigation has only been observed when the pool is reduced as a cue by filling it with water. Studies using dry land mazes have suggested that rats place navigate early in training and later switch to other forms of responding (e.g., motor). The present study evaluated whether rats switch from place navigation to directional responding in the "full-pool" variant of the water task. Rats were given 12, 24, or 36 hidden platform training trials. Probe trials with the pool repositioned in the room revealed a preference for place navigation in rats given 12 trials, an equal division of response preferences in rats given 24 trials, and a preference for directional responding in rats given 36 trials. These results indicate that the early preference for place navigation in the full-pool water task is transient and yields to a preference for directional responding with continued training.
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