Research Article: An Operant Conditioning Method for Studying Auditory Behaviors in Marmoset Monkeys

Date Published: October 24, 2012

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Evan D. Remington, Michael S. Osmanski, Xiaoqin Wang, Alain Claude.


The common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) is a small New World primate that has increasingly been used as a non-human model in the fields of sensory, motor, and cognitive neuroscience. However, little knowledge exists regarding behavioral methods in this species. Developing an understanding of the neural basis of perception and cognition in an animal model requires measurement of both brain activity and behavior. Here we describe an operant conditioning behavioral training method developed to allow controlled psychoacoustic measurements in marmosets. We demonstrate that marmosets can be trained to consistently perform a Go/No-Go auditory task in which a subject licks at a feeding tube when it detects a sound. Correct responses result in delivery of a food reward. Crucially, this operant conditioning task generates little body movement and is well suited for pairing behavior with single-unit electrophysiology. Successful implementation of an operant conditioning behavior opens the door to a wide range of new studies in the field of auditory neuroscience using the marmoset as a model system.

Partial Text

The common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) is an attractive model system for studying auditory processing and vocal communication due to its easily accessible auditory cortex and its high vocal activity in captivity [1]. This species has been used in recent years to study coding of pitch and complex spectral features in auditory cortex [2]–[5], temporal processing in auditory cortex [6]–[8], thalamus [9], and inferior collicullus [10], coding at different sound intensities [11]–[13], auditory cortex connectivity [14]–[17], auditory feedback mechanisms [18], and processing and control of conspecific communication in prefrontal cortex [19]. The marmoset has also recently become the first primate species in which germline expression of a transgenic modification has been achieved [20], broadening its potential as a model for cognitive function in disease.