Behavioural neuroscience

Rat navigation guided by remote control

Free animals can be 'virtually' trained by microstimulating key areas of their brains.


Procedures used to train laboratory animals often incorporate operant learning1 paradigms in which the animals are taught to produce particular responses to external cues (such as aural tones) in order to obtain rewards (such as food). Here we show that by removing the physical contraints associated with the delivery of cues and rewards, learning paradigms based on brain microstimulation enable conditioning approaches to be used that help to transcend traditional boundaries in animal learning. We have used this paradigm to develop a behavioural model in which an experimenter can guide distant animals in a way similar to that used to control 'intelligent' robots.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Examples of guided rat navigation using brain microstimulation.


  1. 1

    Skinner, B. F. The Behavior of Organisms: An Experimental Analysis (Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 1938).

  2. 2

    Loucks, R. B. J. Comp. Psychol. 16, 439–444 (1933).

  3. 3

    Olds, J. & Milner, P. J. Comp. Physiol. Psychol. 47, 419–427 (1954).

  4. 4

    Olds, M. E. & Fobes, J. L. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 32, 523–574 (1981).

  5. 5

    Doty, R. W. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 20, 289–320 (1969).

  6. 6

    Romo, R., Hernández, A., Zainos, A., Brody, C. & Lemus, L. Neuron 26, 273–278 (2000).

  7. 7

    Deutsch, J. A. J. Theor. Biol. 4, 193–214 (1963).

  8. 8

    Gallistel, C. R. J. Comp. Physiol. Psychol. 69, 713–721 (1969).

  9. 9

    Fukuda, M., Kobayashi, T., Bures, J. & Ono, T. J. Neurosci. Methods 44, 121–131 (1992).

  10. 10

    Hawley, E. S., Hargeaves, E. L., Kubie, J. L., Rivard, B. & Muller, R. U. Hippocampus (in the press).

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Sanjiv K. Talwar.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Talwar, S., Xu, S., Hawley, E. et al. Rat navigation guided by remote control. Nature 417, 37–38 (2002).

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.