Differential place and response learning in horses displaying an oral stereotypy

Matthew Parker*, Sebastian D. McBride, Edward S. Redhead, Deborah Goodwin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (SciVal)


Significant similarities exist between the neural and behavioural features of environmentally and drug-induced stereotypy. For example, exposure to dopamine agonists, such as amphetamine, induces stereotypy and causes alterations in midbrain neurophysiology similar to those observed following chronic stress. An additional behavioural feature of these neural changes in the drug-induced phenotype is an enhanced rate of switching from response-outcome (R-O) to stimulus-response (S-R) learning. The aim of the current experiment was to examine R-O and S-R learning in horses displaying environmentally induced oral stereotypies. This was achieved by employing variations of the place/response paradigm. In Experiment 1, we found that crib-biting horses displayed ‘response’ learning after 20 learning trials, whereas non-crib-biting controls tended to display ‘place’ learning throughout the experiment. In Experiment 2, we used a modified version of the procedure, in which the subjects were introduced to the maze from different start points and forced always to turn the same way. We found that the crib-biters acquired the task at a faster rate suggesting again that this group was displaying ‘response’ learning. Finally, in Experiment 3, we carried out an arena test to ensure that crib-biters were capable of ‘place’ learning. These results are the first to show that horses displaying an oral stereotypy, a behavioural phenotype previously associated with stress-induced perturbations of the basal ganglia, preferentially use ‘response’ learning. The findings are discussed in relation to the search for an aetiological model of stereotypy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-105
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number1
Early online date08 Jan 2009
Publication statusPublished - 08 Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Horse
  • Stereotypy
  • Habit
  • Place/response
  • Spatial Behavior/physiology
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Maze Learning/physiology
  • Reaction Time/physiology
  • Mouth
  • Female
  • Horses/physiology
  • Administration, Oral
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Conditioning, Operant/physiology
  • Reinforcement Schedule
  • Animals
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Stereotyped Behavior/physiology


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