Operant Conditioning Task to Measure Song Preference in Zebra Finches

This article has been accepted and is currently in production

Abstract

An operant conditioning paradigm is used to test the song preference of female zebra finches. Finches are placed in a two-chambered cage with a connecting opening and indicate their preference for a song by landing on a perch within each chamber. By interrupting the infrared beam from a photoelectric sensor above each perch, the bird activates the playback of a song through a speaker located on each side of the cage. Freely available software is used to trigger the song playback from each perch. To determine the song preference of each animal, her chamber preference is first identified by triggering no song playback when she lands on each perch. This chamber preference is then compared to her song preference. A minimum activity threshold is set to ensure the preference is real. Using this method, we show that paired females prefer the song of their partner. This method was used to understand the contribution of dopamine to the formation and maintenance of song preference.