Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Pavlov’s Fish - Black Sea Bass Get 'Sound' Training
No bait necessary for these fish - scientists at Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts are training fish to catch themselves.
Using classical conditioning, the team of researchers is busy training fish to voluntarily swim to an underwater cage so they can be caught and sold.
Just like Ivan Pavlov taught dogs to associate the sound of a bell with dinner, and come salivating to the table, these researchers are training fish to associate dinner time with a tone.
The team has even received a $270,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to fund their project.
Black sea bass are a crucial source of the world’s seafood and to reduce the cost of farming them, the fish would ideally roam the open seas to feed and grow until being called back to the cage to be put up on the chopping block.
Recently Simon Miner, a research assistant at Wood's Hole, showed that fish learned to enter a partially closed feeding area in their tank when he sounded a tone for 20 seconds. Three times a day for two weeks he made the sound before he put food in the feeding area.
The fish learned the sound meant food was ready.
It works much the way with my newfie. It didn't take her too long to learn the tell-tale sound of a fork scraping the plate meant she'd soon be licking it.
And, in classic Pavlovian fashion, she now drools reliably at the sound. ((Or course, being a newfie she drools at just about anything!))
So say you, too, wish to create some remote-control fish — how do you do it?
You need 2 things, plus good timing:
1) A stimulus that automatically, instinctively, reflexively produces the behavior you want. These are called the "unconditioned stimulus" and the "unconditioned response."
2) A stimulus the individual can easily attend to but doesn't have an automatic response to. This can be a bell, a clicker, or something visual.
Make the sound then immediately show the unconditioned stimulus. You want the individual to be able to predict what follows the sound - that's why it comes first. You don't want too much time to pass in between the two. And, you don't want to produce them at the same time - you want one to be a useful predictor for the other.